Fears for $19B trade deficit in Lebanon: minister

Published September 15th, 2015 - 10:06 GMT

Lebanon’s trade deficit could rise to $19 billion at the end of this year from $17 billion in 2014 if exports remained low, Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan warned Monday.

“We import from one of the countries around $4 billion worth of goods but we don’t export even $1 to them,” Hajj Hasan told participants at a conference on developing trade between Lebanon and Egypt held at Phoenicia Hotel.

The industry minister did not name the country but he was likely alluding to China, the leading exporter to Lebanon.

The country’s exports have dwindled over the past four years due to the raging war in Syria and the high cost of shipment by sea.

The Lebanese government agreed to offer facilities to Lebanese exporters by shipping their goods at acceptable rates, but despite this initiative, Lebanese exports by sea remain very low.

Hajj Hasan reiterated that the only way Lebanon could reduce the trade deficit was to increase exports and reduce imports.

“The countries that export their goods to us are known. They are the European Union, China and Turkey, while these states hardly accept our goods. This is the wound the Lebanese industry suffers from,” the minister said.

Hajj Hasan was also very critical of the Arab states.

“The Arab countries, including Egypt, do not receive Lebanese pharmaceutical products. I propose to Egypt to help Lebanon in this respect by making a list of medications which Egypt is willing to receive from Lebanon,” he stressed.

The minister also proposed to hold joint meetings between Lebanon and Egypt to ensure that all goods fully comply with international standards.

Hajj Hasan also expressed concern about the debate over the country of origin certificates.

Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb underlined the importance of removing all hurdles and obstacles before the shipment of goods among the Arab countries.

“The condition is appropriate to facilitate trade between Lebanon and Egypt and remove all trade barriers between the two countries,” the minister said.

Economy Minister Alain Hakim, echoing similar views, said it was imperative to discuss the problems that prevent the entry of goods to these states, adding that some of the technical requirements need to be relaxed in order to allow exporters enter their goods to other markets without any hurdle.

At the end of the conference, the participants made a number of recommendations in a bid to remove all trade barriers between Lebanon and Egypt.

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