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Workers' union comes out against WTO membership.

Summary: Lebanon must not join the World Trade Organization unless it completes a set of initiatives aimed at protecting its industries, the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers said Monday.

BEIRUT: Lebanon must not join the World Trade Organization unless it completes a set of initiatives aimed at protecting its industries, the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers said Monday.

"Lebanon must first minimize the costs of production such as electricity prices in a bid to increase its competitiveness among other countries, in addition to securing the needed infrastructure before joining the WTO," it said in a statement reported by the state-run National News Agency.

The statement said that the opinion of GCLW with regard to such an issue must be respected because workers are the ones who are mostly going to be impacted by any decision to join the WTO.

"Workers have also been increasingly suffering from monopoly and exclusive dealerships, especially since governments have not been very effective in boosting productive sectors such as industry and agriculture in a bid to create job opportunities while curbing unemployment," the statement said.

GCLW's statement came less than a week after a visit by a delegation from the WTO to Lebanon aimed at encouraging the country to join the organization.

Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan said in the meeting with the delegation that he wants to study very carefully the pros and cons of potential membership because the country hasn't seen benefits from past trade deals such as the Greater Arab Free Trade Area and the EU-Lebanese association agreement.

The minister assured that Lebanon would only join the WTO if negotiations prove that it is in the interests of the country's economy.

Hajj Hasan's remarks were reiterated in GCLW's statement, which said that such past trade agreements were responsible for the huge trade deficit in Lebanon.

The agreements resulted in a much higher level of imports than exports, the statement said.

It added that membership in the WTO will lead to an exemption of customs duties on imports, which will facilitate the entry of foreign products into the Lebanese market while creating unfair competition and resulting in the closure of many local industrial companies.

On the other hand, the Association of Lebanese Industrialists praised Hajj Hasan's position on Lebanon's membership in the WTO during the delegation's visit.

"We strongly support the minister's position on this issue because Lebanon's industry sector needs to be protected [from] facing cheaper products manufactured in other countries," it said.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Mar 15, 2016
Words:427
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