Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner tell other Group of Eight (G8) ministers that this is the time to support the transitions toward democratic societies and more inclusive economies in the Middle East and North Africa.
“We share a compelling interest in seeing the transitions in Egypt and Tunisia succeed and become models for the region,” Clinton and Geithner said in a letter May 25 sent to other finance and foreign ministers attending the G8 summit. “Otherwise, we risk losing this moment of opportunity.”
The G8 leaders and ministers are meeting in Deauville, France, May 26–27. Clinton accompanied President Obama on his state visit to London May 25, and later in the day she traveled to Paris to participate in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ministerial council meeting and 50th anniversary commemoration.
The two secretaries said in their letter, which was released to reporters in Washington, that previous experiences from other democratic transitions have shown that the advanced economies of the G8 — which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — should focus on trade and long-term investment. Achieving economic stability and democratic governance are essential for the transitions that have begun, they said.
“Our efforts should be aligned with the needs and aspirations of the people of the region,” Clinton and Geithner wrote.
Egyptians and Tunisians have called for progress on priority issues: improving financial stability, strengthening the private sector, curbing corruption, creating jobs and further integrating their markets with the region and the global economy, the two secretaries said.
Clinton and Geithner called for G8 ministers to support the Joint Action Plan of the multilateral development banks, with the World Bank and African Development Bank supporting “home-grown” economic policies and reforms. They also called for other nations, including those in the region, to form a long-term partnership in support of Egypt and Tunisia.
The officials also called for help for the two nations to convert debts into investments and for the G8 nations to lead efforts to reorient the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to support democratic transitions in the Middle East and North Africa, just as it has played a role over the past 20 years in Central and Eastern Europe.
Clinton and Geithner noted that non-oil exports within the Middle East and North Africa account for less than 10 percent of the region’s total trade, making it the lowest of any region in the world.
“This lack of regional integration has contributed to chronic unemployment and hindered diversification,” the secretaries said.