Protectionism can save industry: Hajj Hasan

Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan attends a conference in Beirut, Friday, June 6, 2014. (The Daily Star/Justin Salhani)

BEIRUT: Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan Friday said Lebanon needed to restrict imports and impose protective economic policies to save its industries, the National News Agency reported.

“How shall we treat the industrial case? The best choice is to impose protective tarrifs [on imports],” Hajj Hasan said during a gathering of industrialists at Le Royal, Dbayyeh.

He called for enacting regulations that impose qualitative fees and import licenses, to restrict imported products to specific standards and features. He also did not rule out the reduction of imports “if necessary.”

Hajj Hasan said such policies did not contradict Lebanon’s free trade agreements but protected domestic industries against dumping and unfair competition.

Dumping is used by international manufacturers when they export products to other countries at very low prices that deny competition for local industries.

The minister also criticized the marginalization of agriculture and industry in economic development, saying that some people “want neither industry nor agriculture.”

Lebanon’s economy is service oriented, and its manufacturing and agricultural sectors combined are estimated to contribute only 15 percent to the country’s GDP.

“We all know that the commercial deficit has reached $15 billion, while imports touched $45 billion,” he said. “Hereafter, we should all think about these numbers.”

In parallel, Hajj Hasan said he was working with international organizations to train Lebanese manufacturers. The trainings, he explained, aim to help industries reach international production standards.

He also announced that his ministry was preparing long-term plans to develop manufacturing infrastructure in Lebanon, which he said was vital for industrial development.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 14, 2014, on page 4.




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