Trade Policy and Regulations in Syria
Foreign Trade in Figures
Since the late 1990s, Syria has been very open to international trade. In 2005, is signed a free-trade agreement with Turkey (in operation since 2007) and joined the GAFTA (Great Arab Free Trade Area), a regional free-trade zone, while an association agreement with the European Union was drafter in 2005, then in 2008 and has been ready to be signed since the fall of 2009.
Foreign trade represents about 70% of the country’s GDP. Last numbers published by Syria’s central statistical bureau for foreign trade date from 2008 and give the figure of 14.227 billion EUR of imports against 11.997 billion EUR of exports, i.e. a trade deficit of 2.231 billion EUR.
Exports rose by 12% per year on average between 2004 and 2010, while imports rose by 14% per year. It therefore seems that the global economic crisis did somewhat affect foreign trade, however its bases appear healthy enough to continue the policy of opening up economically.
Syria main exports are its oil resources (42% of exports in 2008), textile (16%), livestock and vegetables (12%), as well as food products (11%). Its main clients are the Arab countries, up to 51% with a particular intensification of trade relations with Iraq, Lebanon and Algeria, followed by the European Union with up to 34%, with Germany and Italy in the lead and France only taking the 6th place. In terms of imports, the most important position belongs to oil products, with up to 35%, and also to metals and fabricated metal products, followed by chemical industry, livestock and consumer goods. The two main suppliers are the European Union (29%) and Asia (25%), respectively.
|Foreign Trade Indicators||2006||2007||2008||2009||2010|
|Imports of Goods (million USD)||11,488||14,655||18,105||15,291||16,950|
|Exports of Goods (million USD)||10,919||11,546||15,410||10,855||14,000|
|Imports of Services (million USD)||2,437||2,917||3,127||2,754||-|
|Exports of Services (million USD)||2,649||3,562||3,770||4,579||-|
|Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||0||8||3||6||-|
|Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||41||2||-2||6||-|
|Trade Balance (million USD)||886||-521||773||-||-|
|Current Account (million USD)||920||459||66||-||-|
|Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)||76||76||64||70||-|
|Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||36||38||32||36||-|
|Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||40||39||32||34||-|
Source: WTO - World Trade Organization ; World Bank
Main Partner Countries
(% of Exports)
|Other partnersClose extended list||43.4%|
(% of Imports)
|Other partnersClose extended list||63.8%|
- Main International Economic Cooperation
- The country is part of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), a pact of the Arab League entered into force in January 2005 which aims to form an Arabic free trade area. Syria also signed a bilateral free trade agreement with Turkey and started negotiations for an Association Agreement with the EU in October 2004, but final signatures are still pending.
- Assessment of Commercial Policy
- Average Customs Duty (Excluding Agricultural Products)
- The Syrian government is working to harmonize its import tariffs and custom duties, trying to adapt them to the WTO standards. The countries that do not have a trade agreement with Syria are subject to a system of progressive tax rates. This customs duties vary between 1 and 200%. The average is 25%. Raw materials are taxed at 5-10%, equipment for industry 10-20%, foodstuffs 1-15%, and machines 30-60%. Tourism vehicles weighting under one tonne are taxed 150%. A surtax is levied on products meant to be sold to military barracks, schools and local councils. This surtax is between 6 and 35%. Customs duties, which were practically prohibitive until now, are being reviewed and lowered in the context of an agreement of association between Syria and the European Union and Syria's eventual membership to the WTO. In this context, customs formalities have been simplified and the list of prohibited import products has been reduced.
Since 2006, the customs laws have been relaxed thanks to the establishment of an automated system. The customs declarations are computerized and the database is updated on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the crisis context had a disastrous effect in the modernization of the system: In February 2009, the government officially proceeded to raise customs duties for cottons and established a minimum price for imported clothing, also eliminated certain taxes for exporters in order to protect the Syrian textile market.
- Useful Resources
Syrian Investment Agency
- National Organization of Intellectual Property
Syria's legal system recognizes and facilitates the transfer of property rights, including the rights of intellectual property (law approved in February 2001 and it includes computer programs, books, films, and other creative works). Syria is one of the member countries of the Paris Convention, of the World Intellectual Property Organization since May 2004 and has established the Syrian Association for the intellectual property in 2005. A previous registration of intellectual property rights is required in order to follow up any infringement. Patents are valid for a 15 year period (renewable) under the condition that the invention must be used for two years.
As far as copyright is concerned, most of the books published in Syria are written in the Arabic language and are written by Syrian authors. There is a legal vacuum in this field and the country's authorities seldom punish possible counterfeiting. There are counterfeiters who record CDs, videos, etc. Video cassettes are 100% copied but there are few repercussions on the economy as such. However, it is advised that the persons victimized by this kind of phenomenon should avoid legal pursuit of the authors of fraud, since the cost of legal action is often higher than the possible compensation delivered in a legal suit. As for trademarks, they are registered for a period of 10 years and the first applicant is the proprietor of the trademark. A new law was established in March 2007 in order to regulate registered trademarks, industrial models and logos.
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