Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan Sign Quadripartite FTA
Turkey will join an economic bloc comprising of the Middle Eastern states such as Syria, Lebanon and Jordan ahead of the protracted accession to the EU. Last weekend, the four nations jointly agreed to follow up on creating a free trade zone to boost trade exchanges particularly to support SMEs of respective countries by eliminating trade barriers.
The Turkish Foreign Trade Minister Zafer Çaglayan hosted the meeting, and was attended by the Syrian Economy and Trade Minister Lamia Assi, the Jordanian Minister of Industry and Trade Amir al-Hadidi and the Lebanese Economy and Trade Minister Mohammad Safadi. The meet decided to form a committee, the Close Neighbors Economic and Trade Partnership Council (CNETAC) to further its cause.
The committee will work on to sketch a roadmap to determine priorities regarding areas of co-operation, and will hold its first meeting in September in Amman, Jordan. The meet further informed that a follow-up of the CNETAC ministerial meeting would be held in the Syrian capital of Damascus in December.
Çaglayan apprised that the goal of the bloc would be to increase and diversify trade and investments among the four countries by creating a liberal trade and investment environment with a modern infrastructure at the international level, free from all tariff and non-tariff barriers, encompassed by a geography which fed a population of 105mn and, as of 2009, had a combined GDP of $723bn, imports amounted to $176bn and exports to $131bn.
In response, Lamia Assi said a Syrian market worth $300bn was awaiting Turkey, and the country could achieve a 40 percent advantage in trade with other Arab countries including Saudi Arabia by sending goods via Syria as her state enjoyed customs-free with Arab nations due to the Arab Free Trade Agreement.
According to the Turkish Trade Minister, the bilateral trade between Turkey and Syria is $795mn three years ago, but is $1.8bn by 2009.
Turkey’s proximity to the Middle Eastern countries has had invited criticisms from some quarters that the country was shifting its axis by turning away from the West and gradually becoming more of a Middle Eastern state. Çaglayan rebutted the argument by saying that Turkey’s axis was with the world but not region-centric.
By Jose Roy