Mediterranean meeting focuses on economic cooperation




Mediterranean economic leaders called for cross-border cooperation at a major business conference on Wednesday.

The 11th Mediterranean Week of Economic Leaders (MedaWeek) brought together business leaders from around the region to boost competitiveness through economic sustainability, improve resource management and enhance infrastructure.

MedaWeek, with its global communication partner Anadolu Agency, has been organized by the Association of the Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASCAME), the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed).

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Ahmed El Wakil, chairman of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce, said trade, investment and employment in the region could be promoted with the help of ASCAME.

Wakil is set to succeed Mohamed Choucair as ASCAME’s president.

"Together we are stronger," he said. "Together we shall bridge our Mediterranean. Together we shall serve our members. Together we shall promote trade, investment and job creation."

During the event, 10 conferences in the field of business development, the textile industry, the green economy, Islamic finance and women in business will be held.

ASCAME and the World Federation of Consuls also signed a memorandum of understanding to promote regional cooperation during the event.

Overcoming challenges
“The Barcelona MedaWeek, in its 11th year, is a simple example of how ASCAME, bridging our Mediterranean, developed," Wakil said.

Jose Luis Bonet, head of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, said that overcoming the region's challenges such as illegal immigration, extremism, terrorism, youth unemployment and a lack of trust in institutions were vital.

"Economic development will play a better role in beating these challenges," he said. "This is why all governments and business communities have a responsibility to work together on the same path."

The Mediterranean market offers business opportunities that the region's countries should not pass up, he added.

"In reaching these opportunities, the private sector plays a greater role in regional economies, by providing employment and citizens’ welfare."

Bonet said the Mediterranean needed to liberalize its markets to encourage competition.

"We should also have a better business environment which is more stable and stimulate prosperity, as well as competitiveness with strong institutions and efficiency," he told delegates.

The Mediterranean has progressed a great deal in recent years, Bonet added. "We still have a lot of work to do in order to make sure the Mediterranean region is reaching the level of exchanging goods, people and services benefiting from synergy and opportunities."

New framework needed
Bonet underlined that the region’s diversity, natural resources, digital transformation and the inclusion of women in business would help Mediterranean countries increase prosperity.

Miquel Valls, head of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Navigation, said a new cooperation framework with a better understanding of the region’s problems was necessary to build a new future for Europe and the Mediterranean region.

Valls said Mediterranean countries were being excluded from new global economic blocs due to security issues and political upset in the region.

“It’s a shame because we’re talking about a region with a population of 800 million which brings together together Africa, Asia, and Europe,” he said.

Valls underlined the importance of strengthening the value of the region for economic growth, creating new businesses and helping existing enterprises.

An ambitious program should be launched to address the region’s economic needs.

“Our future is linked with the capacity to build the economy and social situation in all our countries,” Valls said.

The three-day event runs until Nov. 24 and will look at industries as diverse as textiles, water resources, renewable energy and Islamic finance as well as the growing role of female entrepreneurs.