Syrian Economy and Foreign Trade Minister Mohamed Imadi said Iraq sought large scale imports from Syrian factories, the official Syrian Arab News Agency, SANA, reported.
Imadi was speaking at a meeting with Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh to discuss the free trade agreement that their countries are due to sign here on Wednesday.
Imadi "referred to the Iraqi desire to cooperate with Syrian factories for devoting their full production to the Iraqi market if they wished", SANA said.
Saleh pointed out that the free trade accord "would allow commodities to move between the two countries exempt of import duties or import licenses, provided they are of Iraqi or Syrian origin", the agency added.
The meeting was attended by the president of the Union of Syrian Chambers of Trade and Industry, Rateb Shallah, who said the agreement would "strengthen the market share of Syrian products in Iraq."
Damascus' official newspapers put annual trade between Iraq and Syria at around $500 million.
Saleh also met with Syrian State Minister for Planning Issam Zaim who said the free trade agreement would pave the pave the way for cooperation in investments and free flow of capital and labor, said SANA.
Saleh came on Monday to Syria along with Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan, who toured on Tuesday the historic sites of Damascus.
Ramadan paid a visit to the Omeyyad Mosque and the tomb of Saladin, the Kurdish prince who fought the Crusaders, born in Takrit, the birthplace of President Saddam Hussein in northern Iraq.
Relations between Syria and Iraq, ruled by rival branches of the pan-Arab Socialist Baath party, have warmed since 1997. Their diplomatic relations were broken in 1980, because of Syria's support for Iran in its war with Iraq. — (AFP, Damascus)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )