The new world order and the primacy of regional groupings

The world configuration changes at a high rate. The gap widens between the countries of the North and those of the South. Companies are spread in a globalized space in search of investment opportunities. Capital circulates, labor emigrates, and competences are laying in wait hunting for opportunities of a better life... In such a landscape, where competition and mobility are master words, how to offer to the citizens a framework for adequate living? How to manage change? How to avert common dangers?

Our framework of analysis will take primarily the Maghreb as a spatial dimension and a geographical area of reflection. This is an unfortunately lethargic Maghreb because of blockings that it has known and its lagging behind when compared to developed countries. Each one concerned will have to assume his responsibilities for that.

Our article is entitled: "The New World Order and the Primacy of Regional Groupings". It is thus worth dissecting it. A priori, it is important to note that we will focus this work on the economic aspects.

I.   The new world order and the primacy of  geo-economic reality

What is the world order? In its broadest meaning, the world order indicates "the coherent whole of legal rules directed according to the finalities of the system." As it is conceived of today, the world order is an order based on complex interdependences, particularly in its economic dimension. Its basic postulate is the refusal of autarky. Its consequence is the international division of labor.

The features characteristics of the New International Economic Order (NEIO) are as follows:

  • It is of an inspiration that is primarily Anglo-American. One knows, in fact, that the majority of the charters founding this order have been developed by Anglo-American experts and strategists during the period of the Second World War and afterwards. Let us cite, among these charters, that of the Atlantic of August 14, 1941, the Bretton Woods Agreement, which created the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank currently) and the International Monetary Fund (the IMF) on July 22, 1944, the Charter of Havana (1947) which was to establish the International Organization of Trade, the Treaty of Brussels of March 17, 1948 which gave rise to NATO... Thus, the legal architecture of the current world finds its roots in this period of great changes.
  • It repudiates protectionism. Thus, there appeared among the objectives of UNO, instituted in 1945 by the Charter of San Francisco, economic co-operation (art. 1; al. 3). The principle of good economic neighborhood, envisaged in article 55 of this Charter, points to this objective. More importantly, this approach is capable, according to the architects of this order, of creating the conditions for a lasting peace. Some institutions like UNESCO take part in it of the same vision. One also knows that the Euro-Mediterranean Process of Barcelona, launched in 1995, or the Conferences on North Africa and the Middle-East, which gave birth to the Partnership for the Great Middle East, have, inter alia, similar objectives: to bring about peace through the intensification of economic cooperation.
  • The consecration of "organized free trade". This expression is that of Thiebault Flory, one of the great specialists of the multilateral trade system. More precisely, the current international economic order is affected by three major principles, which constitute the substratum of multilateralism: the freedom of exchanges and payments, equality of treatment and reciprocity of advantages.

The new world order is thus characterized by the triumph of liberal values: A progressive withdrawal of the State from the economic sphere, the assertion of Human rights, the consolidation of a market economy, etc... On a geopolitical level, the new world order is marked by the assertion of Europe, the revival of the American power and the rise to power of Asia. The new world order has also another face that is more political or strategic. It is the consequence of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the ex-USSR. It also favored the emergence of new regional powers like China, India or Brazil.

The new world order, however, is marked by brittleness. UNO tries hard to be reformed and its action is often inhibited by the veto of the super- powers, at their head the United States. Several zones of conflict still persist: Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Sudan (Darfur)... Some major dangers also characterize this order, particularly global terrorism.

At the present time, the role of these institutions has been reinforced: The IMF, the World Bank, WTO, OMPI, the International Chamber of Commerce... This order obviously has not achieved unanimity. It is disputed in particular by the anti-globalization movements ("altermondialists") which plead for a globalization with a human face.

Realpolitik wants, however, that one considers this order as a reality with which it will be necessary to deal. The question to pose is thus the following: how would states like those of the Maghreb adapt to the new world order? How would the economies of these countries confront the tough competition in a highly competitive and globalized market, characterized by the rise to the power of China and the considerable extension of the networks of the multinational firms? It is clear that, by themselves, the Maghrebian States will face difficulties finding a place of choice within this configuration and to manage such problems with transnational dimensions as clandestine immigration, organized criminality, the traffic of weapons or drug, terrorism, the management of the scarcity of water...

II.    The primacy of  regional blocks

We will take here the region in a double meaning, the widened region (regional integration) and the region, as an autonomous unit.

A.  The international dimension: extensive rationalities

It is not necessary today to point out the primacy of the regional groupings when compared to States taken individually. Regional integration has developed considerably since the beginning of the Nineties: NAFTA, MERCOSUR, ASEAN. Globalization drives back to Unitarian rationalities and the regrouping of forces. The pace of history accelerates and the management of the progressive opening up of borders is carrying major challenges. How, indeed, could a State, alone, when it is not a superpower, confront an overall competition: commercial, technological, cinematographic...?

It is worth pointing out a very basic principle: "Unity makes force!" At the hour of "The Europe of 27", of the Chinese Giant and its rise to power, the emergence of continent-countries like India or Brazil, what place is there for states like Morocco, Algeria or Tunisia, taken separately? 

In the corporate world, one speaks of concentrations, of joint-ventures or consortia. In order to maintain themselves, companies seek strategic alliances, regroupings of means and capital to reach the critical size and to ensure their survival in a world where the control of advanced technologies is the key to success.

The paradigm of the Nation-State has, therefore, become obsolete. Sovereignty is no longer an overriding principle, in the sense understood by Jean Bodin. The supranational orders are now capable of offering a more favorable framework because they are more extended for the pooling of their means and the sharing of the benefits resulting from it.

Today, then, the era is for the regrouping of forces, not for their dwindling. The future will belong to the States that will be able to constitute prosperous centers of attraction, able to drain considerable masses of capital, to offer to their nationals a framework of life potentially more promising. Consequently, how to conceive dates, whereas the year 2012 is at our doors, when the economic borders with Europe will open up, a better future, an anchorage in the globalized economy...?

Regional integrations have experienced a considerable development since the creation of the multilateral commercial system in 1947. Not less than 250 regional trade agreements are into force at the present time. WTO could not help but recognize this so powerful sociological reality. GATT of 1994, in its article XXIV, like the GATS (General Agreement on the Trade of Services) in its article V, acknowledge this legal reality while fixing it with a regulation in order to make it compatible with the objectives of the multilateral trade system.

According to F.A. Khavand, "the creation of the zones of regional integration is justified by the will of the countries concerned to improve their positions within international division of labor. The latter want to upgrade their economies, to improve their productivity and to reinforce their establishment on the markets of export".

Regionalism is based on two main arguments:

The first is that of the scale economies. The widening of the market is indeed regarded as the impetus of a zone of integration because the national markets are often unable to ensure, alone, the size necessary to the exploitation of the economies of scale and specialization.

The second is that of the liberalization of the exchanges inside a zone of regional integration. Indeed liberalization constrained companies to face the competition, to reduce their costs and to improve their productivity. They can gradually export competing products towards the markets of third countries.

B.    The internal dimension: "autonomist" rationality

Regionalism has also an internal dimension. It is an established fact today that the region constitutes a sociocultural entity, a sociological and economic reality. The geography of space regards it as an important unit in the process of development and territorial management.  In Morocco, the region has been upgraded to the level of the local community by the Constitution of 1996 (art 100). Pushing this logic to its extreme, Morocco proposed, within the framework of the Plan for a broad autonomy of the Provinces of the South, to confer on the region of the Sahara a real autonomy at all levels, while preserving for the State its kingly prerogatives. The Security Council of UNO took note of the Moroccan initiative in April 2007, and of the negotiations on the final statute of the territories of the south of Morocco should be held between the parties concerned beginning June 18, 2007.

What is important to point out is that the Agreements of WTO admit this reality and recognize the "federal fact". Undoubtedly, these agreements took into account the nature of the States having taken part in the negotiations, in particular composed States or those with a federal structure: The United States, the European Union, and Switzerland. Accordingly, one can quote two agreements of WTO, the Agreement on the implementation of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Regulations (Agreement SPR), and the Agreement on the technical obstacles to trade (Agreement TOT).

1. How the SPR agreement would accept the reality of the region as a recipient of standards?

Article 6 of the SPR Agreement is labeled as: "The adaptation to regional conditions, including the zones exempted from parasites or diseases, and the zones with weak prevalence of parasites or diseases". It maintains that: "1. The Members will see to it that their sanitary and phytosanitary measures respect the sanitary and phystosanitary regulations of the region of origin and destination of the product - whether it the case concerns the whole of a country, part of a country or the whole or parts of several countries." On the other hand, article 13, which relates to the "implementation," states that: "The Members are fully responsible under this agreement to respect all the obligations that are stated there. The Members will work out and implement positive measures and mechanisms to enhance the respect of the provisions of this agreement by institutions other than those of the central government. They will take all the reasonable measures in their capacity to ensure that non-governmental entities under their territorial jurisdiction, as well as the regional organizations whose qualified entities under their territorial jurisdiction as members, conform to the relevant provisions of this agreement. Moreover, they will not take measures which will, directly or indirectly, oblige or encourage these regional or non-governmental entities, or local public institutions, to act in a way incompatible with the provisions of this agreement. The Members will ensure that they shall resort to the services of non-governmental entities for the implementation of sanitary or phytosanitary measures only if these entities conform to the provisions of this agreement".

The SPR agreement represents an integral part of the Agreement on agriculture, itself integrated into WTO in which Morocco is a member.

2. A similar approach on the level of the WTO agreement

One can quote article 3 of this Agreement which is labelled as follows: "Development, adoption and application of technical payments by local public institutions and nongovernmental organizations". On this question, WTO Agreement insists that: "3.1. The Members will take the required measures in their capacity to ensure that these ("local public") institutions and those ("nongovernmental") organizations conform to the provisions" of the WTO Agreement.

One can also refer to article 7 of the same Agreement which indicates that "Procedures of evaluation of conformity applied by institutions evaluation of conformity as applied by local public institutions".

As one notes, the WTO Agreements, therefore, confirm regions as recipients of the rules laid down by the Institution. They are nourished by a democratic spirit and a federal approach: the distribution of competences among the components of the State, according to the mechanism of the separation of powers and the principle of subsidiarity.

3. The new statute of the autonomous region of the Sahara: an operational synthesis

The region integrated in the Moroccan State, according to an intelligent federal system, is undoubtedly the most suitable solution for the management of diversity in unity. Such an option, if it gets ratified, will constitute the starter of steady economic development, of a true economic takeoff on all levels, that the Autonomous Region of the Sahara would be the lead engine and the model. Such a system is "avant-gardist"; a kind of revolution in the "legal mental structures" of the Arab countries, a dared and reflected approach.

Such a system will be even the incarnation of the principle a democratic regime and its corollary, the separation of powers. The federate entity would control also the federal entity! Such is the essence of the federal system: a system of counterweight, collaboration, balance, and the separation of powers. Such a system was praised, for a long time, by the great philosophers and lawyers of all times like Montesquieu. Claude Leclercq provides the essence of this formula: "The advantage of a federal State is larger still compared to a unitary State or with a confederation of States: the principle of separation of powers is even more sophisticated than the federal State: the separation between the federal government and the federate governments leads to a control of the ones over the others, while each one controls oneself".

The mode of broad autonomy is in conformity with the spirit of the U.N. principle of self-determination. At the present time, the International Conventions on cultural diversity, like the Convention of UNESCO of October 2005, in fact, admit the new players of cultural diversity such as regions or cities.

As it is conceived, this regional system, if it is applied, will be the realization of a wish of late King Hassan II, when he hoped that Morocco would be able to set up a mode of governance close to that of the German Länders. This federated Morocco, like the Federal German Republic, would be perhaps located best to try to federalize "a Maghreb of Regions"!

Morocco will have thus applied a clever dialectic for the solution of the problem, which consists in operating an intelligent synthesis between two extremes: total integration and independence. Autonomy is thus the solution of the happy medium, that of the wise.

As the new French President, Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, proposed as of his nomination, for us Maghrebins, a Mediterranean Union, a linking factor between Europe and Africa, shouldn't we be proactive and seize this historical opportunity and build this shared community, for the benefit of our people, instead of quarreling on the borders? Aren't the borders of today, rather, virtual at the era of new communication and information technologies?

Certain regional powers at the origin of the artificial conflict of the Moroccan Sahara should thus carry out a reformulation of their foreign policies so that they would be in line with the requirements of the post-cold war period. Those policies are not any more of an ideological but basically economic nature: hence the primacy of cooperation and regional integration instead of regional tensions and separatist aspirations.

Zakaria Abouddahab