For Immediate Release
Today, Ambassador David Hale and Minister for Economy and Trade Dr. Alain Hakim met to discuss their continued cooperation to strengthen the Lebanese-American economic relationship. Ambassador Hale highlighted the recent reauthorization of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, which strengthens commercial ties and promotes economic growth and stability in Lebanon by granting Lebanese products a competitive advantage in the U.S. market.
The long-standing GSP program provides preferential duty-free entry to the United States for eligible products from Lebanon and 121 other beneficiary countries and territories. Although the program lapsed in 2013, the recent law reauthorizes the GSP through 2017 and also made GSP benefits retroactive, which will allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to refund duties paid on eligible GSP products during the lapse. Lebanon is a major beneficiary of GSP, with the opportunity to export approximately 3,500 products to the United States duty-free under the GSP program.
Below are Ambassador Hale’s remarks as delivered during the event.
Good morning and thank you all for being here today. Minister Hakim, it is a pleasure to be back at the Ministry of Economy and Trade. Over the years, this Ministry and the Embassy have enjoyed a strong partnership, working together to encourage increased commercial ties between Lebanon and America. Today, I would like to thank Minister Hakim in particular for continuing this tradition and his efforts to promote a strong economic relationship between our countries.
The Minister and I just concluded a productive meeting on ways to continue to strengthen Lebanese-American economic ties. In particular, we discussed an important American program that President Obama recently signed into law – a program that will directly benefit Lebanon.
Late last month, President Obama signed a law reauthorizing the Generalized System of Preferences – or GSP as we call it. The GSP program is designed to promote economic growth by providing preferential duty-free entry to the United States for eligible products from Lebanon. Although the program lapsed in 2013, the recent law reauthorizes the GSP through 2017 and also made GSP benefits retroactive. This will allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to refund duties paid on eligible GSP products during the lapse to Lebanese exporters.
Now, let me explain exactly how this program works, and how it will boost economic growth in Lebanon. The GSP program allows select nations, including Lebanon, to export their products to America without paying duties and customs. For example, if a Lebanese exporter and a non-GSP exporter both send a case of olive oil to the United States, the Lebanese exporter will not pay duties, but the other firm will. This gives Lebanese products a competitive advantage in the American market. The result is simple: lower duties increase exports, boosting economic growth.
Nearly all Lebanese exports to the United States fall under the GSP program, meaning they can be exported to the United States duty-free. For example, in 2012, the last full year of the program before the lapse, 96 percent of Lebanese exports to the United States were eligible to enter our market without duties. Millions of dollars of Lebanese products – jewelry, clothing, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, even hummus – will again enjoy an advantage over competitors in accessing the American market. Just as Lebanese companies will benefit from GSP, Americans will directly benefit as well, since they can buy all the wonderful things Lebanon produces at reduced cost.
I am pleased to be here today to highlight this latest sign of America’s commitment to Lebanon, to its people, and to its private sector. In addition to GSP, we will continue to offer programs and events to promote business relations between our two countries – from leading Lebanese business delegations to the United States to hosting commercial events in Lebanon. Economic partnership has been a cornerstone of the Lebanese-American relationship from the beginning. We look forward to continuing our work together to bring economic growth and opportunity to both our nations.
I think many Lebanese are aware of the high level of security assistance that we are proud to provide to Lebanon’s army and security services. But stability in Lebanon isn’t just about the military. America also seeks to advance a healthy, stable society here through economic development. Whether it is the $134 million we are providing to Lebanon’s education sector, or today’s initiative to provide you access to American markets, we are very committed to supporting Lebanon’s civilian sector and economic prosperity. Our activities in this regard may be less known than our military aid, but they are every bit as important.