Syria and Lebanon moved closer towards creating a common market Monday when President Bashar al-Assad ratified an agreement liberalising their trade in agricultural goods, officials here said.
At present, Syria forbids the import of Lebanese agricultural produce, while the Lebanese complain that Syrian produce is smuggled in. The agreement, signed last October, provides for duty to be imposed on 17 types of produce, which will "be gradually lowered" over five years. The Syrian press said at the time that the agreement "contributes to the creation of an Arab common market." Assad also ratified an agreement made in 1997 on the establishment of joint customs offices on the borders of the two countries.
A customs agreement between them came into force on January 1, 1999, which will gradually reduce duties on Syrian and Lebanese inudstrial goods, bringing them down to zero in four years time. Meanwhile Syrian Tourism Minister Qassem Maqdad and his Lebanese counterpart Arthur Nazarian Monday chaired a meeting of the joint tourism committee, an official source said. They set up seven sub-committees to work out different aspects of coordinating tourism policy, such as harmonising travel agencies, publishing a tourist guide and organising joint festivals.
Nazarian was also received by Syrian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa Miro. Syria and Lebanon have had a treaty of fraternity since May 1991, providing for close political and economic cooperation. Syria wields decisive political clout in Lebanon.
© Agence France Presse 2000