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Defining the Arab Region

The Arab League of Nations comprises 22 countries in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf, the eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa that are linked by their shared predominance of Arabic language and Islam. The Arab League constitutes a political and economic bloc that advocates on behalf of its members states vis-à-vis the world, but also cooperates with the United Nations and NATO vis-à-vis its member states.

The Council for Australia-Arab Relations, under the auspices of Australia’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT), is responsible for enlivening the relationship between Australia and all 22 countries of the Arab League.

The Middle East & North Africa (MENA) is an economic trading bloc delineated by Australia’s DFAT as the countries of Arabia and the (Persian) Gulf including Iran, which is not Arab, and of the eastern Mediterranean including Israel, which is not Arab.

The Arab Region comprises contiguous countries sharing Arab ethnicity and language that have populations of majority Sunni Islamic orientation with Shia Islam and Christianity well represented.

Whether we speak of MENA or of the Arab region, we are talking about countries with shared characteristics that form a vast landmass in the centre of the globe between Australia and her commonly perceived ‘mother-ship’ of Europe.

While this bloc of countries has long been of vital interest to Europe, Africa, Central and S-E Asia, and America – the first trade embassy in the world was established by the Venetians in Aleppo, Syria ca 1540 – Australia’s trade engagement with the Arab region is relatively new.

In the 1900’s oil reserves lured even our attention, while in the 21st Century the mosaic of Arab economies including oil and mineral resources, agricultural production, manufacturing, import-export, Islamic financial services, ICT, and creative industries are well known to Australian government institutions, big business, and entrepreneurs.

But the Arabs still ask me the same 2 questions:

  1. What does Australia make?

  2. Why don’t Australians come and tell us what they have?

As much to do with gaps in Australia’s public relations propaganda as to Arab countries’ conservative immigration laws, these questions reflect vital characteristics of the Arab market place where reading about you has no appeal, no matter how high-tech your promotion.

Arabs want us in their country to see who they are and what they want. In the same way they learn better how to define Australia.

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