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French Version

Inter-Arab trade under Escwa spotlight

The size of trade between Arab countries will not increase unless governments implement the necessary reforms in customs regulations, participants in a trade meeting at the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (Escwa) said Monday.

"The efforts by the Escwa members to facilitate trade and transport were big. However, these efforts are still below the required levels," the director general of Escwa Meravat Tallawi told the participants.

Inter-Arab trade is considered to be very low in comparison to other countries, and experts say outdated laws and bureaucratic procedures have all dealt a blow to the overall trade among Middle Eastern states.

Malek Assi, the head of the external trade department at the Lebanese Economy and Trade Ministry, said Arab states must adopt modern laws in an effort to boost the volume and value of trade.

He added that Escwa members needed to comply with World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements.

Among these agreements are countries of origin certificates; import licensing agreements; inspection before shipping; technical trade barriers agreements and a health agreement.

Assi said many Arab states hinder trade with excessive bureaucracy and regulations on imported goods coming from neighboring countries. The high cost of procedures and customs departments staff shortages are adding further delays, he said.

Lebanon, which signed several trade agreements with Arab countries, claims it is not treated equally with its trading partners.

Lebanese industrialists say locally made products receive preferential treatment from countries like Egypt and Syria. They added that most Lebanese goods do not enter Arab markets because of claims these goods don't meet required standards.

Beirut,11 15 2004
Osama Habib
The Daily Star
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