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Monday, December 14, 2015

Ramallah hosts first Palestine exporter showcase

 
  • Success will depend on accessing and competing in developing markets
  • Event targets stone and marble, agriculture, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, and Information and communications technology (ICT)
  • Israel’s influence over transportation links, invoicing and taxation remains a point of contention


  • Commerce depends on accessing and competing in global markets
    The Palestinian territory’s first exporter week launched in late November, bringing together hundreds of attendees in the West Bank to promote the region as a global supplier of products and services. Event organizers and speakers were keen to establish an economic-based narrative under the banner of “export-led prosperity”.
    A handful of political and industry supporters from importing markets – Canada, the EU, the US and Turkey – spoke as partners of Palestinian private sector development.
    Katherine Verrier-Frechette, representative of Canada to the Palestinian Authority, said that for small economies like Palestine’s (2014 GDP $7.5bn), success will depend on accessing and competing in global markets.
    As part of this strategy, Palestine is highlighting sectors such as stone and marble, agriculture, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and other industries. Information and communications technology (ICT) in particular is making gains as heavyweights such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco outsource services to local companies. ICT also recorded the highest output per employed person, at $93,200 in 2014 (compare with services at $14,500), according to the Portland Trust.

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    Exports have been growing, at some 300 per cent over the last 10 years to $1.1bn for goods and services in 2014, and reached more than 100 countries, according to PalTrade, organizer of Exporter Week and non-profit membership organization set up to improve trade competitiveness.
    US-based Minnesota Cut Stone was at the conference to discuss importing activities in the stone and marble sector. Jake Blom, general manager, said the company began partnering with Jerusalem Stone Group because of consumer demand for Palestine’s limestone colours.
    Expertise and technology necessary for detailed fabrication was available on site, so shipping waste was avoided, he noted. The company plans to provide an American branch for Jerusalem Stone Group.
    But establishing business was not without its obstacles. “There seems to be a lack of certainty in time and schedules,” Blom said, pointing to September’s holidays as a major limitation causing production and transportation delays.
    Israel’s influence over transportation links, invoicing, and taxation were a clear point of contention throughout the conference, as well as issues with Jordan over introducing bespoke barcodes to identify Palestinian products.
    Middle East turmoil stemming from the Syrian conflict was not widely perceived as a risk factor. To the contrary, Palestine has a track record of outperforming markets during times of instability.
    Palestine Exchange-listed Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC) has seen its revenues go up to $536.2m in 2014, a 20.6 per cent jump year-on-year. Fida Musleh-Azar, Investor Relations at APIC, said that given the current uncertainty, Palestine has shown remarkable stability over the past few years.
    “We are used to working in disturbance. You always do contingency plans,” she said. “Life goes on. You cannot sit back … this is not the way it works in Palestine.”

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