x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Syria urged to loosen red tape

The Federal National Council urges the Syrian government to make it easier for Emirati investors to open businesses in the Arab republic.

DAMASCUS // The Federal National Council has urged the Syrian government to make it easier for Emirati investors to open businesses in the Arab republic. During a meeting yesterday with Mohammed al Hussein, the Syrian minister of finance, Abdul Aziz al Ghurair, the FNC Speaker, also pushed for easing the procedures associated with buying property in Syria. Mr al Ghurair arrived in Damascus on Saturday for a two-day visit at the head of an FNC delegation.

Yesterday he also met his Syrian counterpart, Mahmoud al Abrash, and is scheduled today to meet President Bashar al Assad, the prime minister, Mohammed Naji al Utri, and the foreign minister, Walid al Muallem. "We have a very rapid business environment [in the UAE], but investors come to Syria and get caught by surprise when they see the registration procedures involved," said Mr al Ghurair. The Syrian finance minister conceded that the procedures for registering foreign companies in his country were slow.

"We need to ease and simplify the procedures, especially for Arab and Emirati investors," he said. Mr al Ghurair agreed with Dr al Hussein to work on organising a conference bringing together UAE and Syrian investors. Mr al Ghurair said the FNC was ready to encourage small and medium-scale investments on both sides. "We don't want to keep it exclusive to big companies." He said he was not happy with figures on trading between the two Arab nations, noting that Turkey is one of the UAE's major trade partners despite being geographically more distant from the Emirates than Syria is.

The UAE-Syrian trade volume stands at Dh1.4 billion (US$380m), according to Salem Issa al Zaabi, the UAE Ambassador in Damascus, while the volume of trade with Turkey is estimated at Dh33bn, according to Koksal Toptan, speaker of Turkey's parliament. Syria and the UAE signed a free-trade treaty in April 2000 that abolishes customs duties on goods manufactured in either country. But Mr al Ghurair complained to the Syrian official that the agreement was not being respected by some low-level customs officials.

"There is no official decision to obstruct the treaty," Dr al Hussein assured the delegation. "If there is any information about UAE products being obstructed on entering Syria, I hope that you inform me about it. I am responsible for customs." mhabboush@thenational.ae