BEIRUT: The new industry minister said that some of the “unfair trade agreements” with some countries should be reviewed if these states continue to put restrictions on the entry of Lebanese-made goods.
“We need to revise some of the unjust and unfair trade treaties. They are not sacred,” Hussein Hajj Hasan told ministers, businessmen and industrialists at banquet held in his honor in Beirut.
The minister has echoed the views of many Lebanese industrialists, who complain that some countries prhibit the entry of Lebanese-made goods under the pretext that they do not meet international criteria.
Hajj Hasan said other countries, including the United States, China, Russia and EU states, were demanding revisions to existing trade agreements, so Lebanon should consider doing the same.
“I want to know why we are not allowed to ask for certificates of imports while most Arab states insist on having these certificates when it comes to Lebanese goods?” the minister asked.
Hajj Hasan said he had bitter experiences dealing with some states when he was agriculture minister.
“Some of the countries did not help us facilitate the exports of Lebanese agricultural produce,” Hajj Hasan said, while declining to name specific states.
He questioned why certain countries were allowed to protect their industries from foreign competition but Lebanon could not.
He admitted that all successive governments, including the Cabinets he was a member of, failed to protect Lebanese industrial and agricultural products:
“Some countries flushed away billions of dollars to protect their industries during the global financial crisis. They even provided these industries with soft credit lines. But in Lebanon, we didn’t even try to help farmers and industrialists.”
Hajj Hasan also commented on the growing unemployment.
“Unemployment is around 25 percent among the youth. We have 30,000 jobseekers each year,” Hajj Hasan said. “These people need to find jobs. That’s why we have to support productive sectors to accommodate them.”
The minister said Lebanon’s goal should be to increase the industry from the current 11 percent of GDP to 16 or 17 percent.
Hajj Hasan said even if the main purpose of the government was to pave the way for the election of a new president on May 25, ministers must not stop working to improve the country’s economy.
The minister promised to work closely with Lebanon’s Industrialists Association to boost the exports of Lebanese-made goods.