BEIRUT: The United States ambassador to Lebanon Friday brushed off allegations that Washington was among “some countries” prohibiting or complicating the import of Lebanese-made goods.
“Contrary to recent allegations that some countries have closed their markets to Lebanese trade, the United States has increased its imports of Lebanese goods by 28 percent since 2009 for a total of more than $64 million in 2013,” David Hale told merchants and traders at Beirut Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture. “Since 2010, the United States has imported more than $60 million of goods from Lebanon each year, with food items, apparel and jewelry topping the list of items.”
The ambassador was apparently responding to the claims from Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan that some countries were complicating the entry of Lebanese-made goods under different excuses.
The minister called for the revision of “unfair” trade agreements with these unidentified countries.
The United States has become one of the key trading partners with Lebanon, and according to January statistics, the U.S. overtook Italy as the leading exporter to the country.
Hale also emphasized that the United States worked with Lebanese businesses and individuals to expand access to international markets and increase exports from Lebanon – not only to the United States but worldwide.
“For example, in 2012 the U.S. Agency for International Development funded and introduced a Web portal for exporters that allows food processors to obtain critical information on export standards and helps them in meeting these standards,” Hale said.
He also stressed that the embassy’s USAID mission worked with the Syndicate of Lebanese Food Industries to prepare studies of the United States, Gulf states and Iraq to understand the market needs of these countries and to determine which Lebanese producers and products would be competitive in those markets.
“Other ongoing USAID programs assist food processors in implementing quality and certification processes to meet export regulations,” Hale explained.
Many countries have urged the Lebanese government and local producers to improve the quality of their products and obtain ISO certification to facilitate the entry of their goods into the global markets.
The ambassador said that USAID and other embassy activities also facilitated business relationships between Lebanese businesses and import and export companies.
“In 2011, this facilitation resulted in an increase of Lebanese exports of more than $3 million for the assisted companies. This year, the embassy began a joint product promotion in the U.S and Gulf markets for the Lebanese olive oil and honey industries,” he said.
For his part, chamber President Mohamed Choucair hailed the Lebanese-U.S. trade ties.
He noted that the U.S. was not only one of the top importers of Lebanese products, but that its actively supported initiatives to strengthen Lebanon’s reputation as a quality trade partner.