Algeria's diplomatic relations contribute to rising levels of foreign trade

Since achieving independence in 1962, Algeria has pursued an activist foreign policy, pushing interests of developing countries through the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as in groups like the G-77. Current president of the republic, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, served as the 29th president of the UN General Assembly in 1974 during his lengthy term performing as the country’s minister of foreign affairs.

During Algeria’s civil war, which took place between 1991 and 2002, the country experienced a period of relative prolonged international isolation. However, the country has gradually re-emerging as a player on the global stage under the administration of President Bouteflika. For instance, President Bouteflika has played a leading role in the peace talks between Eritrea and Ethiopia since 1999, which led to the signature of a peace agreement in July 2018 to put an to two decades of conflict between the two countries. Furthermore, in 2015 Algeria also hosted negotiations between the Malian government and rebel factions, and proposed a mediation agreement that was finally approved by both parties in June 2015, after months of war in northern Mali.

As well as being a full member of both the IMF and World Bank, Algeria is an observer country to the World Trade Organisation, and an active member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum – serving as chair of the body’s West Africa working group. The country is also a partner to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and occasionally provides logistical support, such as airlifting, to both UN and African Union peacekeeping operations.

Unity

Although it has a relatively closed economy, Algeria holds close trading links with its Mediterranean neighbours to the north, and remains an important source for the EU’s natural gas imports, particularly to France, Spain and Italy.

Relations with France, Algeria’s former colonial ruler, have remained close despite a strong anti-colonial sentiment in the population. French remains widely spoken by governing elites in Algeria, and France is also home to a significant Algerian diaspora. In addition, Algeria has cordial relations with most of its immediate Maghreb neighbours, though its relationship with Morocco has been constrained since the 1990s, in large part driven by disagreement over the disputed territory of the Western Sahara.

Global Ties

In July 2001 President Bouteflika became the first Algerian head of state to visit the US since 1985. Since this visit diplomatic engagement has developed significantly. Previously, bilateral relations had been distant, and had been severed completely between 1967 and 1974. Bilateral cooperation on security matters became particularly important in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.

Under the Bouteflika presidency, Algeria has greatly increased its diplomatic and economic relations with China, which has become an important source of official development financing and discounted lending. In 2016 China overtook France, becoming the number one source of imports to the country. Furthermore, in September 2018 Algeria signed a memorandum of understanding in order to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative, focusing in particular on potential future infrastructure investment throughout the country (see analysis).

Turkey has also become a more important economic and diplomatic partner, as evidenced by a visit from the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in early 2018. In late 2016 Turkey overtook France to become the single biggest source of inward investment to Algeria. However, although Algeria has become increasingly open to foreign trade and investment in recent decades – especially across the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa – the country still remains resolutely opposed to relying on foreign sovereign borrowing to any significant or regular extent.

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Cover of The Report: Algeria 2018

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This article is from the Country Profile chapter of The Report: Algeria 2018. Explore other chapters from this report.