Prepared by Stephane Cossé.
GAFTA includes Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
For instance, customs duties on luxury and standard cars were lowered, respectively, from 255 and 150 percent to 60 and 40 percent.
The simple average tariff cannot therefore be identified in Syria.
The structure of the tariff is already based on the Harmonized System (8-digit level) and should therefore be consistent with international standards.
A World Bank study by Chemingui and Dessus (2003) estimates that non-tariff restrictions raise the domestic price of imported goods by 19 percent, that is, twice as much as the effective tariff protection. These estimates are close to rough estimates of 15–20 percent provided by some companies in discussions during the 2006 Article IV consultation mission
For certain goods, imports can be made only after a certain quantity is procured locally from a public enterprise.
The government operates seven duty free zones to promote foreign investment and industrial activities (Damascus, Damascus Airport, Adra, Latakia, Latakia Port, Dara, and Tartus). Two others are being established in the Eastern part of the country.
For instance, some imports, particularly by public enterprises, were valued until 2004 at a rate significantly below the market exchange rate (sometimes as much as four times), thereby providing an implicit subsidy to companies.
There has been some progress with regard to the reference price for European cars as the price quoted directly by the car makers is now used, implying a reduction in the quote of 15 to 30 percent.
The authorities intend to acquire the ASYCUDA-World system to automate customs processes. Implementation will take place over the coming 24 months, by which time the system is expected to be rolled out to the majority of international airports, ports, and some 60 border stations.
The agreement requires that imports should have a 40 percent added value content in GAFTA.
Arab and EU countries accounted in recent years respectively for roughly 15 and 20 percent of imports and 10 and 60 percent of exports.
Syria’s request (sent in 2001 and reiterated in 2004–05) needs approval by the WTO’s General Council to start negotiations.