signed with Egypt
Joint committee formed to
address certificates of origin
A joint business council held in Egypt signed 16 Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) mainly related to the agricultural, industrial, and touristic fields.
Economy Minister Raed Khoury said: “We are ready to apply trade agreements flexibly. They are not sacred and can be adjusted to conform to the development needs of our relationship. But it’s a good start.”
The MoUs include agreements on management and civil service, veterinarian services, security, and participation in international exhibitions. Cooperation protocols also included the exchange of trade information, the implementation of consumer protection policies, intellectual property protection, and support to micro, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Other agreements were signed to support youth, sports, cultural cooperation, environment protection, tourism, technical cooperation, relics, and industry.
The protocols related to industry include a Certificate of Conformity (COC). Dany Gedeon, Director General of the Ministry of Industry, said that this protocol will confirm that products and goods that have a certificate from recognized laboratories can enter both countries, without any need to test the products imported again. The Industrial Research Institute (IRI) is the recognized laboratory in Lebanon.
Nabil Fahed, Vice Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, said: “Local exporters suffer the most from the high cost of lab and technical inspection of merchandise at Egyptian entry points. The cost of these inspections leaves the same impact as that of custom duties, which is a clear violation of the trade agreement signed between the two countries.”
He said that in addition to this high cost, exporters incur additional losses because merchandise is charged port and storage fees while its turn for inspection comes. Agricultural products would consequently be spoiled because of the long wait.
Fahed said: “Each country has the right to impose technical specifications on imports but there are two basic principles that should be followed: The State should inform exporters of these specifications before their implementation begins, and it should implement the same technical specifications on imports as on local products.”
Another protocol was signed with Egyptians related to the imports and exports of tiles. Gedeon said that both parties agreed on enhancing the tile trade. Egyptians are prohibited to export ready-made tiles unless there is need in the market. They can only import tiles that still need work.
Regarding pharmaceuticals, Arab countries were not importing locally manufactured pharmaceuticals. They argued that the medicine should be registered in at least two Arab countries. For this reason, manufacturers were unable to register medicines in any Arab country. Gedeon said that Egypt agreed on removing these constraints.
The protocols also included activating the agricultural calendar. Naim Khalil, Chairman of the Syndicate of Importers and Exporters of Fruits and Vegetables, said: “The calendar existed before but it wasn’t being implemented. It will be activated in September.”
Egypt can export a limited amount of potatoes (50,000 tons) in February and March. It can also export watermelons in winter until April, and onions, garlic, and mango at any time. Lebanon can export apples from July to April, and pears and grapes during the summer.
There is a massive imbalance in trade between Lebanon and Egypt. Local exports to Egypt were valued at $58 million in 2016 compared to $774 million worth of imports from Egypt.
According to Fahed, Lebanese investments in Egypt equaled $250 million between 2004 and 2016 compared to $15 million in Egyptian investments locally.
The two sides agreed on forming a committee to discuss means to develop trade and resolve challenges facing its growth. The committee will hold its first meeting in Beirut during the first half of July to set a list of agricultural products that will be traded.
The committee will sign a MoU concerning the mutual acknowledgement of certificates of origin during the upcoming meeting. It will also set customs points of contacts. The committee is formed of representatives of the Lebanese Ministry of Economy and trade and the Egyptian ministry of industry and trade.
Reported by Rania Ghanem and Yassmine Alieh
Date Posted: Mar 24, 2017