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Cablegate: Renewed Gol Commitment to Wto Accession in 2010 (Economic

VZCZCXRO6881
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #1355/01 3630645
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 290645Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6257
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 001355

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN EWWT SENV PGOV LE
SUBJECT: RENEWED GOL COMMITMENT TO WTO ACCESSION IN 2010 (ECONOMIC
WEEK IN REVIEW, DECEMBER 14-27, 2009)

CONTENTS
--------

-- GOL AND USTR RENEW COMMITMENT TO WTO ACCESSION
-- LEBANON COMMITTED TO DEALING WITH CLIMATE CHANGE
-- MOODY'S AND STANDARD & POOR'S UPGRADE LEBANON OUTLOOK
-- UNCTAD: GROWING MARITIME ACTIVITY BUCKING GLOBAL TREND

GOL AND USTR RENEW
COMMITMENT TO WTO ACCESSION
---------------------------

1. (SBU) Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Christopher Wilson
briefed GOL officials and parliamentarians on the status of
Lebanon's WTO negotiations during a one-day visit to Beirut December
17. Wilson said the USG sees a real opportunity for Lebanon, with a
new cabinet in place, to move toward WTO accession by the end of
2010. Wilson indicated USTR would like to see more ambitious market
access offers, an improvement in terms of trade and services, and
completion of some pending legislation, including intellectual
property-related draft laws and amendments. Minister of Economy and
Trade Mohammad Safadi stressed Lebanon's commitment to WTO
accession. Safadi said there was no political resistance to pending
WTO-legislation but noted the GOL was still facing resistance to
accession from the agricultural and industrial sectors.

2. (SBU) During a lunch hosted by the American Lebanese Chamber of
Commerce (AmCham), Wilson also raised the importance of
strengthening the legal basis for intellectual property protection
and enforcement of legislation in order to attract investment. He
noted that the USG will continue its technical support to Lebanon
for WTO accession and said USTR is committed to working with Lebanon
to meet the GOL goal of acceding by the end of the year. AmCham
president Salim Zeenni said AmCham is planning a trip to New York
and Washington in February and would follow-up on these issues with
USTR.

LEBANON COMMITTED TO
DEALING WITH CLIMATE CHANGE
---------------------------

3. (U) Prime Minister Saad Hariri expressed Lebanon's commitment to
dealing with climate change and noted that Lebanon aims to be able
to cover 12% of its energy needs with renewable energy sources by
2020. Hariri, who was speaking during the UN Climate Change
Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, headed a delegation including the
ministers of health, energy and water, finance, and environment.
The impact of climate change on Lebanon is enormous, he said, with
direct effects on sea level and water supply, agriculture, and the
survival of cedar trees, the country's national emblem. As reported
by the local press, Hariri noted that Lebanon would work to decrease
gas emissions but did not specify exact measures to be taken,
although he called on developed countries to provide the assistance
to developing countries.

MOODY'S AND STANDARD & POOR'S
UPGRADE LEBANON OUTLOOK
--------------------

4. (U) Moody's Investors Service upgraded the outlook on Lebanon's
B2 government bond issuer rating to positive from stable. The
upgrade was attributed to improvement in external liquidity,
strengthened ability of the banking system to finance fiscal
deficits, and the formation of a cabinet in November. Moody's also
upgraded to positive from stable Lebanon's B2 country ceiling for
foreign currency bank deposits and B1 country ceiling for foreign
currency bonds. Despite the upgrade, Moody's noted its concerns
about potential vulnerabilities in the country's economic and
political situation, as well as the sluggishness of economic reform.


5. (U) Meanwhile, Standard & Poor's (S&P) also raised its ratings on
Lebanon's long and short-term sovereign credit to B/B from B-/C,
with a positive outlook. S&P attributed the upgrade to many of the
same circumstances cited by Moody's, most notably the "new
cross-party consensus" that allowed PM Hariri to form a national
unity government in November.

UNCTAD: GROWING MARITIME
ACTIVITY BUCKING GLOBAL TREND
-----------------------------

6. (U) Lebanon ranked 34 out of 162 countries worldwide and 6 out of
18 MENA countries in the UN Conference on Trade and Development's
(UNCTAD) Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI). This constituted
an improvement of 8 places worldwide compared to last year, while
Lebanon's regional ranking remained unchanged. UNCTAD noted that

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Lebanon's transport connectivity system was relatively well
developed and improvement in its ranking stood in contrast to the
global trend of slower maritime activity due to the financial
crisis.

7. (SBU) UNCTAD also noted that from 2004-2008, Lebanon witnessed
the third highest average annual growth rate worldwide in terms of
LSCI. The LSCI measures levels of integration into global liner
shipping networks, access to world markets, and ease of conducting
maritime trade. Lebanon's main port is the Beirut Port, but recent
GOL efforts have focused on expanding the northern Tripoli Port, a
project financed by a $50 million soft loan from the European
Investment Bank (EIB). The former Chairman of the Tripoli Port
previously told us this project would enable the port to compete
with the Syrian ports of Lattaquieh and Tartous.

SISON

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