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Battle : Lebanon is top portal for US goods

Lebanon is still considered as the most important economic regional portal to the Middle East market, US Ambassador Vincent Battle said during the inauguration of the Made in America 2003: For the Earth exhibition at the Beirut Port Export Center on Monday.

“Despite minor instability issues, Lebanon promises huge growth potential,” Battle told his audience, while outside the center protesters called for boycotting US products.

Battle added that “the reconstruction of Iraq promises to be a real boom for both US and Lebanese companies and their respective national economies.”

“We can fulfill our common quest by initiating different levels of interaction and activities,” Lebanese Industrialists Association president Fadi Abboud said. “Political differences aside, we have a great opportunity for cooperation to promote mutual prosperity.”

Abboud considered that, aside from establishing commercial contacts with their US counterparts, Lebanese companies would stand to benefit from the lessons of the American economy ­ with ethics, integrity, productivity and hard work touted as main ingredients in US dynamism and success. “With all due respect, commerce is too important to be left solely to politicians,” said Abboud. “It is the duty of the private sector to enhance economic growth and prosperity.”

Abboud touted the benefits of the Export Center as a catalyst for establishing crucial links with overseas buyers. Its main task is to provide quick and cost-effective access to Lebanese products via its facilities. “Our American visitors will find that our economy is modern, diverse and offers numerous possibilities,” Abboud said. “We have invested heavily in new technologies and made great strides in quality.”

According to Abboud, the Lebanese are fully exploiting the opportunities presented by the Arab Free Trade Area and the EuroMed agreements. US companies can access and increase their exports to these markets using Lebanon as a base. “The upcoming World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun, Mexico, during the second week of September is an important milestone,” Abboud said. “The Lebanese delegation, headed by the Economy Minister, will draft Lebanon’s full membership to the WTO,” he said. “The resiliency and entrepreneurship of the Lebanese remain their greatest assets,” Battle said. “These are the characteristics that allowed Lebanon to survive and prosper through some of the most difficult periods during its recent history.”

Concurrently with the exhibition, the Lebanon chapter of the Arab Bureau for Boycotting Israel and other youth associations organized a protest.

The protesters called on the public to boycott US goods, especially General Electric, Caterpillar, Burger King, McDonalds, Microsoft and IBM, as supporters of Israel and its policies in the Occupied Territories.

Beirut,09 08 2003
Ara Alain Arzoumanian
The Daily Star
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