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Lebanon signs Latin American free trade pact

Daily Star, Lebanon

Lebanon signs Latin American free trade pact

18 December 2014

BEIRUT : Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil signed a free-trade agreement with the Mercosur countries of Latin America, stressing the importance of maintaining good relations with the bloc.

The memorandum of understanding, which Bassil signed in Parana, Argentina, facilitates trade between Lebanon and the sub-regional bloc, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The agreement was signed Tuesday during the 47th ministerial meeting for the group, which also includes associate member states like Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, as well as two observer states, Mexico and New Zealand.

Tunisia also signed a similar agreement with Mercosur.

“Signing a trade agreement between a state and a bloc is not a new thing,” Bassil said in a speech at the conference.

“But when the free trade agreement is between Lebanon, with a GDP of $40 billion, and the Mercusor countries in Latin America, which is the world’s fifthlargest economic bloc with an total GDP of $5.4 trillion, this has a lot of significance for Lebanon.”

Bassil reiterated that the size of trade between Lebanon and Latin America, which has about 12 million Lebanese and their descendants, has not exceeded $14 million per year during the last five years.

This disappointing number, he said, indicated that Lebanon only targets 1 percent of its exports to Latin America, and that each Lebanese person in the southern continent only purchases one dollar’s worth of Lebanese products each year.