Israel-Mercosur Trade Deal Imminent

mercosur2.jpg South America’s four-nation trading bloc Mercosur is poised to clinch an historic free trade pact with Israel, officials said Wednesday. The deal, expected to be completed Thursday, would be the first free-trade agreement for Mercosur, a market of nearly 250 million people covering most of the South American continent. “The idea is to finish all the details and wrap up the whole thing tomorrow (Thursday),” said Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s ambassador to international organizations in Geneva… Click for full article

Update: Mercosur-Israel trade deal likely delayed until 2008, officials say

How interesting is it that Mercosur’s first free trade agreement will be with Israel? This seemed to come out of nowhere. But it merely shows that The Arab Boycott won’t stop Israel’s economic growth, though it forces Israel to branch out in order to do business primarily with countries and trading blocs outside of its immediate region (with some exceptions of varying degrees including Jordan, Turkey, the PA, Egypt, and a few North African and GCC countries that broke the taboo by beginning to trade on a limited basis with Israel). International trade is, of course, becoming the norm around the world as it is, although regional trade still dominates due to the logic of close proximity and lower transport costs (for example the United States trades goods with the entire world but the United States’ two largest trading partners remain Mexico and Canada). Many of these non-Middle Eastern countries (and Middle East countries) would have more to gain from trading with Israel than from abiding by the rules of the boycott if it were not for the international demand for oil and natural gas. Recall the Arab Human Development Report (HDR) of 2002, conducted by the United Nations Development Program, which found that the combined GDP of all 22 Arab countries, in spite of all the oil wealth, is less than that of Spain.

If it’s the human rights/treatment of the Palestinians the Israel boycotters are worried about, I wonder (not really) why they don’t boycott Sudan, a country which has committed far more atrocities in the last decade than the combined count throughout the span of the entire Arab-Jewish conflict in Palestine from its inception, or the case of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, all countries with large Kurdish populations who to this day refuse to recognize Kurdish national aspirations (Turkey won’t even call them ‘Kurds’ but prefers ‘Mountain Turks’).

At least after WWII European nations had the sense to realize expanding trade relationships with their enemies would help put an end to the violence by creating the conditions (i.e. jobs and economic growth) whereby each country had a lot more to lose by going to war than to gain. This was precipitated by the launch of the European Coal and Steel Community to promote trade primarily between the wars major antagonists and historic enemies France and Germany — and agreements like these eventually blossomed into what is today the European Union. After WWII in the Pacific theater, the U.S. and Japan — two countries that had just fought a ferocious war with one another that included the firebombing of entire cities and the use of nuclear weapons — still managed to form a close alliance and trade relationship to the great benefit of both countries. There’s nobody in Europe, the U.S. or Japan, save for a few fringe groups, that would want to go back to the old order. The problem in the Middle East is that its not the fringe groups, it’s the mainstream including intellectuals.


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