The government intends to apply new fees on certain imported items to protect Lebanese industry and combat dumping of cheap goods, Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan said Wednesday.
“The government plans to introduce a package of taxes and fees on certain imported goods in the coming few weeks.
“This proposal was made by Prime Minister Saad Hariri and adopted by all ministers,” Hajj Hasan said during a ceremony at the Association of Lebanese Industrialists.
He added that Hariri has asked the industry and economy ministers to impose new taxes on specific imported goods to crack down on dumping in the Lebanese market.
The minister said the items that will be subject to the new fees are white cheese, yogurt, eggs, cut stones, industrial paper, garments, jewelry, shoes, steel, aluminum, plastic, flour and artifacts.
He said the government had to take this measure because many of the importing countries are not respecting the conditions of the World Trade Organization.
“Many countries that export their goods to Lebanon are subsidizing their industries, which makes it very difficult for the local manufacturers to compete in a fair way,” Hajj Hasan said.
Lebanese industrialists have consistently lobbied governments to reduce the cost of production and review some of the free trade agreements with countries that do not comply with WTO conditions.
Hajj Hasan added that merchants in Lebanon are importing any product that is cheaper than in Lebanon.
“If we don’t impose protective fees then Lebanese industrialists will reduce production and ultimately this will lead to a drop in sales and maybe the closure of the industrial plants,” he warned.
The minister repeated that the closure of factories and more unemployment would have a negative impact on the economy
“We need to import less and we must strive to increase our industrial exports from $2.2 billion to $4.4 billion, a figure we achieved in 2011,” Hajj Hasan said.
He emphasized that over 200,000 Lebanese families make their living from industry.
Fadi Gemayel, president of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, echoed the minister’s calls to protect Lebanese industry. He called on the government to pay more attention to the industrial sector and to apply reciprocal treatment to any country that blocks the import of Lebanese-made goods for a variety of reasons. Gemayel told The Daily Star that there was nothing wrong with Lebanese-made goods, adding that the industrial sector creates more jobs than any other sector.
“We will not remain idle until all our demands have been fulfilled. We are only asking for reciprocal treatment. That’s all,” he added.
At the end of the ceremony, Hajj Hasan awarded an ISO quality control certificate to the Association of Lebanese Industrialists.