Damascus Concerned about \'Smuggling of Lebanese Goods into Syria\'
Syria is considering reducing its Customs duties on imported goods in an attempt to contain the smuggling of finished products from Lebanon, The Daily Star reported Tuesday, quoting a leading Syrian businessman.
Rateb Shallah, the president of the Association of Syrian Businessmen and president of the Syrian Chamber of Commerce told the Lebanese paper that "we fear that the smuggling of goods to Syria from Lebanon may increase after the Lebanese government cut tariffs on imported products."
Meanwhile, the Lebanese farmers also have complained that smuggled Syrian agricultural produce has harmed the livelihood of thousands of local farmers. But despite the pledges to put an end to smuggling in both directions, illegal goods continue to flow into Lebanon and Syria.
According to the Lebanese-Syrian trade agreement, which went into effect in 1998, goods traded between the two countries will be subject to gradual tariff cuts of 25 percent each year, the daily said, citing that the Lebanese government asked Syria to freeze temporarily the import of certain agricultural produce into Lebanon to protect local farmers.
The side-by-side existence of an open economy (Lebanon's) and a closed one (Syria's) makes smuggling from the first to the second less difficult and a more attractive job. Critics of Syria’s presence and influence on Lebanon have on many occasions accused Syrian officials of taking advantage of smuggling operations for their own benefit.
“By controlling Lebanon, members of Syria's ruling and military elite enrich themselves with this movement of goods, mostly foreign-produced luxury items (such as stolen cars) but also illegal foreign workers, by pocketing the proceeds of the illegal trade. Cross-border mafias operate under the direct supervision of Syrian intelligence and involve corrupt local officials and an assortment of shadowy middlemen,” said a report of the Lebanon Study Group, published in May last year.
Reports of the anti-corruption campaign in Syria have not mentioned such charges regarding the top officials sent to court for misuse of office – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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