In the MENA region, many countries have negative trade balances or rely on the exportation of fossil energy to balance importations of good and services. In recent years, and with new rigor after 2011, different kinds of free trade agreements (FTAs) are discussed in the region. At the forefront stand the efforts of the European Union to upgrade Association Agreements with into Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs), mainly with Morocco and Tunisia. Similar discussions and reviews of existing agreements take place in Egypt and Jordan. In North Africa, discussions also focus on the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) proposed by the African Union. Civil society and trade unions in these countries should formulate their interests and demands in relation to social justice.
While trade is necessary for economic development and growth, it must be fair and should not disadvantage southern countries. Especially large free trade agreements such as DCFTA can have negative impacts on vulnerable parts of societies. Therefore, such agreements need to be vetted from a social-justice perspective. In this context, both the potential consequences of future agreements and the outcomes of already existing ones need to be studied and discussed.