As Lebanon heads down the fast track to trade liberalisation, some commentators are predicting a devastating impact on small-holder farmers. Unable even to sell produce on the Lebanese market let alone for export, farmers are painfully unprepared to compete with subsidised imports. Yet little is being done to fortify the agricultural industry as the fruits of major bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) and liberalising reforms loom on the near horizon.
It is important to consider the level to which Lebanon is ready to negotiate and implement the various free trade agreements, how much Lebanon is clear on the costs and benefits of the agreements it is negotiating, and the restrictions of policy space that is imposed through these agreements.
Shaun Donnelly, assistant US trade representative for Europe and the Middle East, and Lebanese Minister of Economy and Trade Sami Haddad signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) on Wednesday to provide a forum for expanding and strengthening bilateral trade and investment relations between the two countries.
The United States expects to finalize a new trade agreement with Lebanon by the end of November, marking progress in Beirut’s stalled bid for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Viewed as a prelude to a bilateral free-trade agreement between the two countries, the new Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) should eventually lead to Lebanon’s ascension to the WTO, US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman said in a speech at a dinner hosted by the Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce on Friday.
The Campaign for Judicial Integrity (CJI), a Lebanese policy and advocacy group active in promoting reform of the Lebanese judiciary and legal profession, urged the European Union to give the highest priority for the full implementation of the human rights and democracy clause in Article 2 of the Lebanese-European association agreement before fiscal reform and tax increases.
The implementation of the Association Agreement-signed four years ago by the European Union and Lebanon-was announced Monday, and is expected to boost bilateral trade, increase the access of Lebanese exports to Europe, and strengthen institutional and political ties between the two sides.
Washington has urged the EU to hold off on signing a trade and aid pact with Syria, citing its doubts that Damascus withdrew all intelligence agents from Lebanon and was allowing fighters to enter Iraq.
Lebanese farmers say the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement (Gafta) could wipe them out when it goes into effect Jan. 1. If that happens, they promise to take to the streets in protest.
An essential feature of the implementation of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership has been the negotiation of Association Agreements between the European Union and nine of its Mediterranean Partners to replace the 1970s Co-operation Agreements.
Overview of Bilateral Negotiations 2004 involving Trade Agreements: State of Play 27 July
It is not widely known that Switzerland will sign two more bilateral free trade agreements (with Lebanon and Tunisia) on the occasion of the meeting of ministers of EFTA states (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland) taking place in Montreux (Switzerland) on June 24.
Last month, GRAIN issued an open letter to Pascal Lamy, the chief of trade policy at the European Commission. In it, we disputed Mr Lamy’s public relations efforts aimed at trying to convince the world that the EU champions the rights of Third World farmers to save seeds.