BEIRUT: The head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Beirut highlighted over the weekend the importance of strengthening ties between businessmen in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, as he helped kick off a weeklong exhibition in Jeddah for Lebanese businesses.
Mohamed Choucair also said he would soon launch a businesses association in a bid to strengthen ties between Lebanese businessmen and their counterparts worldwide. “This step will help in boosting relations between Lebanese and businessmen in the rest of the world and particularly Saudis. This, in turn, should increase business partnerships and strengthen investments in all fields between the two countries,” he said Saturday during the launching of “Lebanon Week in Jeddah.”
He also highlighted the private sector’s ability to boost growth in Lebanon, while praising Lebanese expats in Saudi Arabia and the greater Gulf region for supporting their native country’s economy.
“Deposits from Lebanese expats reached $7 billion, which enabled Lebanon to overcome its financial difficulties while preventing further economic deterioration in the country,” he said.
Lebanon Week, which was organized by the Lebanese Consulate in Jeddah in association with the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Lebanese Chamber of Commerce of Beirut and M.I.C.E. Arabia, was attended by a large number of Lebanese and Saudi businessmen and diplomats.
The weeklong event has drawn over 300 Lebanese companies representing different sectors of the economy, particularly from the fields of real estate, banking and industry.
The event aims to widen economic and trade relations in addition to boosting investment and improving cooperation between businessmen in both countries.
“Lebanon has strong historical, economic and political relations with Saudi Arabia,” said Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri. “This exhibition will help strengthen these ties. The Lebanese consider Saudi Arabia their second home.”
“Lebanon occupies a strategic geographic location as much as it is a strategic business partner,” he said.
Asiri added that the exhibition would open new doors for job opportunities and improved trade and economic relations between the two countries.
“This exhibition will take cooperation between the two countries to new heights. The main aim of the exhibition is to showcase Lebanese products,” he said.
Asiri continued: “I would like to emphasize the importance of the fact that this is the biggest Lebanese trade delegation [to visit Saudi Arabia] in the history of both countries, which is solid proof of the strong ties between the two.”
Meanwhile, Lebanese Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Abdel-Sattar Issa praised Lebanon’s capability to register positive growth at a rate of 1.5 percent in 2013 despite its drop in tourism activity and the influx of over a million Syrian refugees, which is expected to cost Lebanon $7.5 billion by the end of 2014 according to estimates by the World Bank.
“Despite all the regional unrest and the local economic difficulties facing our country, the Lebanese private sector has proven to be resilient as usual,” he said.
Issa added that the security plan that been implemented throughout Lebanon as well as the formation of a national unity government would help revitalize the tourism industry.
He said Lebanese expats had achievedeconomic success in Saudi Arabia through partnerships with businessmen in their home country.
For his part, Lebanese Economy Minister Alain Hakim expressed his optimism over the outcome expected from Lebanon Week and added that he hoped further cooperation would bring Saudi tourists and businessmen back to Lebanon.
A few days ahead of the opening of the exhibition, Mazen Batterji, the deputy chairman of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, explained that trade between Lebanon and the kingdom had reached $783 million and that Saudi investments in Lebanon were equal to $16 billion, as registered by the Saudi Council of Chambers of Commerce in three categories: real estate, commerce and services.
Saudi investment in the field of real estate accounted for 85 percent of the funds, including investments in land, while 15 percent had been invested in residential properties, he said.