A senior Lebanese industrialist accused some Arab countries Friday of putting pressure on the government to neglect trade deals with Iraq potentially worth up to $1 billion a year, reported the Daily Star newspaper.
Ahmad Kabbara, head of the export department at the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, said that Lebanon was the first Arab country to approach Iraq and agree to export goods there in 1997 under the United Nations oil-for-food program.
“But the government has done little to increase trade and implement agreements signed with Iraq because certain countries are deterring Lebanon from carrying through its agreements with Iraq,” said Kabbara.
“Why is normalizing relations with Iraq being viewed similar to normalizing ties with Israel?” he asked, without specifying which Arab countries were criticizing Lebanon.
Kabbara was speaking at a press conference held to preview a Lebanese trade fair in Baghdad, open from February 25 to March 3, said the daily.
Kabbara also urged the Lebanese government to sign a trade agreement with Iraq similar to the deals the latter already has with Syria and Egypt.
“More than 1,000 Lebanese firms want to penetrate the Iraqi market,” said Kabbara.
“But they can’t, because Iraq has signed free trade deals with other Arab countries such as Syria and Egypt that offer cheaper goods,” he said.
Iraqi authorities have given Lebanese industrialists preferential market access and allowed them to set up a permanent 3,000-square-meter wing at the Baghdad International Trade Center to store products for future fairs.
This month’s exhibition in Iraq is one of three Lebanese trade fairs to be held in Baghdad this year. There will also be three Iraqi trade fairs in Beirut, the Star said.
Fares Saad, organizer of this month’s Baghdad fair, said he hoped this year’s exhibitions would encourage the mutual opening of trade offices – Albawaba.com
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