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Sabounjian calls on industrialists to seek out foreign markets

Sabounjian and Frem at the opening of the campaign.

BEIRUT: Industry Minister Vreij Sabounjian called on Lebanese industrialists to explore new markets Monday to offset the impact of an anticipated economic recession.

Speaking during the launch of a campaign to promote Lebanese industry, Sabounjian said: “The upcoming days and months will not be easy, and we will have to face to the repercussions of a recessionary period despite the abilities and capacities of the Lebanese economy.”

Under the slogan “Your industry your identity: Buy Lebanese [products],” the campaign intends to bolster the image of Lebanese products both at home and abroad.

Nehmat Freim, head of the Lebanese Industrialists Association and a key figure behind the campaign, said the project would feature television and billboard adverts.

“We hope that everyone will contribute to the campaign to support industrialists and help them withstand [tough conditions],” he said.

Freim reiterated industrialists’ calls to allow the private sector to invest in electricity production.

“We are ready to produce electricity under the same conditions set by the government when it leased Turkish electricity-generating barges,” he said.

In July, Lebanon signed a $360 million three-year contract to lease the barges from Turkish firm Karkey Karadeniz Elektrik Uretim, with the first due to arrive next month.

Sabounjian said a draft law to cut taxes on industrial export profits by 50 percent would be passed by Parliament.

Responding to questions by industrialists attending Monday’s conference, Sabounjian urged traders to report any forging which targeted Lebanese goods.

The minister also reiterated earlier criticism of some trade agreements which he deemed unfair to Lebanon.

“How can Lebanon, a 10,000-square-meter country of 4 million, sign a fair [agreement] with Turkey, a 500,000-square-meter country with over 80 million inhabitants?” he asked, in reference to a free-trade deal between the two countries.

The agreement, which establishes a free-trade area between Turkey and Lebanon, was signed in 2010 in Beirut. It is expected to enter into force later this year.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 18, 2012, on page 5.

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