Economy, Business And Markets

Lebanese Delegation Focuses on Improving Banking Procedures

Lebanese Minister of Industry Hussein El Hage Hassan (L) and the new head of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization, Mojtaba Khosrotaj, in Tehran on August 29. Lebanese Minister of Industry Hussein El Hage Hassan (L) and the new head of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization, Mojtaba Khosrotaj, in Tehran on August 29.

Lebanese Minister of Industry Hussein El Hage Hassan surveyed potential fields of cooperation in a visit to Tehran. He arrived in the capital on Sunday, heading a 70-strong economic delegation. Officials from Lebanese ministries of industry and trade, Bank of Lebanon and Association of Lebanese Industrialists along with representatives from the insurance, manufacturing, construction and trade sectors accompanied the minister.

“Iran’s access to Central Asian markets can benefit Lebanon and we, in return, can introduce Iranian goods to the African market to which we have access. What needs to be done in this regard is to improve banking interaction between the two countries. Our main mission in Tehran is to restore and enhance bilateral banking ties,” said the Lebanese official in a meeting with the new head of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization Mojtaba Khosrotaj on Monday.

According to Khosrotaj, who is also deputy minister of industries, mining and trade, it is now possible for Iranian banks to open branches in Lebanon and vice versa. He added that Lebanese economic players in African, South American and Oceania markets have expressed willingness to market Iranian goods.

The two sides discussed ways to increase trade, noting that transportation is a major sticking point in bilateral commercial ties as Syrian and Iraqi routes are unsafe due to war and insecurity in the two countries while the Turkish route is lengthy and expensive.

Khosrotaj floated the idea of preferential trade agreements between Iran and Lebanon to help lift two-way trade.

“This has to be discussed in the next meeting of the Iran-Lebanon Joint Economic Commission by providing a list of goods for which preferential tariffs can be set,” the Iranian official was quoted as saying by the TPO’s news portal.

 Trade Figures Not Notable

Despite cordial political ties, bilateral trade is far from impressive. According to the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, Iran exported $83.2 million worth of goods to Lebanon in the past fiscal year that ended in March, which showed a 5% rise over the year before. Meanwhile, imports stood at $30.5 million -- a 13% decline. 

IRICA data covers the first four months of the current fiscal year to July 21, during which period Iran exported 3,700 tons of non-oil goods worth $20.2 million to Lebanon, recording a 4% rise while importing 681 tons of goods worth $8.4 million to register an 11% drop year-on-year. Pistachios, carpet, beverages, lift trucks, faucets, baby food, dates and raisin were among the main exports. Imports chiefly included vegetable seed, corn seed, medical equipment, auto parts and cocoa powder.

“There are ample opportunities for the two sides to engage in joint investments in the fields of pharmaceuticals, food and light industries. We are also willing to cooperate in tourism and insurance and our technical and engineering companies are ready to offer services to construction projects in Lebanon,” Khosrotaj told his guest.

Later on Monday, the Lebanese minister accompanied by director general of Lebanese Standards Institution (LIBNOR) Lena Dargham, held a meeting with head of Iran National Standards Organization, Nayyereh Pirouzbakht. The two sides stressed the need to expand cooperation and ease trade procedures in the interest of businesses in both counties.