|Turkish delegation signs pact to promote trade ties - New council will seek to boost business|
|Transport and maritime concerns are still pending, along with issues such as free trade and dual taxation.
Turkish and Lebanese officials inked an deal Thursday to establish the Turkish-Lebanese Business Council to promote economic ties beyond the $350 million annual trade volume.
Wajih Bizri, the president of the Lebanese Economic Forum, and Mehmet Habbab, head of the visiting 22-member Turkish delegation, put their country's signature to the agreement in a signing ceremony at the Phoenicia Inter-Continental Hotel in Beirut.
Lebanon imports some $237 million worth of goods from Turkey each year. It exported some $25 million last year.
Habbab held the Lebanese business community responsible for the imbalance in trade.
"Unfortunately, Lebanese businessmen are not aggressive or aware enough of the Turkish market to take a greater part in it," said Habbab. Habbab also spoke of certain obstacles to trade that have yet to be ironed out between Lebanon and Turkey: "We need agreements on free trade and avoidance of double taxation between the two countries.
"Transport and maritime issues are still pending, but signing such agreements will greatly expand trade," he added.
Finance Minister Fouad Siniora, who presided over the signing ceremony, promised to work harder to hammer out an agreement to facilitate the avoidance of double taxation and the protection of investment.
Habbab said one of the biggest Turkish contracts in Lebanon is the 400 kilowatt electricity transmission line linking Ksara with Syria. The Turks are also interested in participating in projects for building a regional gas pipeline through Lebanon, Habbab added.
Turkey, according to Habbab, can take advantage of Lebanon's strong financial sector to make up for constraints in the Turkish banking sector that have arisen due to the country's financial crisis.
Habbab invited Lebanese businessmen to make use of Turkey's high-tech industry, tourism sector and contracting business, which can partake in Lebanon's reconstruction drive.
"Turkish contractors have executed $50 billion in contracts across the world," said Habbab. "In Lebanon, the figure has not exceeded $30 million to $40 million."
Beirut,11 23 2002
The Daily Star