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Hajj Hasan: Trade deficit must be reduced, by any means

File - Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan arrives to attend a Cabinet session in Baabda, Thursday, March 27, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan said Thursday that Lebanon must reduce its trade deficit, even if doing so requires adopting protectionist policies.

“This method is followed by all countries. The GDP is less than $50 billion. Is it fair to have a five-year trade deficit that is equal to the GDP for one year? How can we build a healthy economy if we continue this path?” Hajj Hasan said.

“If at some point we’re compelled to place protectionist tariffs, then we will do it to preserve our productive institutions and competition capabilities.”

Lebanon’s trade deficit widened by 2.525 percent in 2013 compared with 2012, as exports fell by more than $480 million, according to the Customs Department.

“I have informed the ambassadors I have met with that the ministry will preserve the country’s industry with the continuation of imports. But we should strive in the foreseeable future to increase exports by $1 billion to $2 billion and reduce imports by the same amount,” the minister told industrialists and officials at the HORECA exhibition at BEIL.

Hajj Hasan called on officials to raise these issues during the trade talks with other countries in order to protect the national industries.

The minister called on the agro-food industries to abide by all international standards, warning that he would not tolerate any violations or slackness.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 04, 2014, on page 5.

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