Retail & Trade
The Syrian government and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria appear to have reached trade deals for certain commodities needed in the northeast and wheat needed in regime-held areas.
Although Jordan is at the forefront of rapprochement efforts with the regime, its air force allegedly launched two airstrikes over southern Syrian territory, killing an infamous drug lord and destroying a drug factory. The strikes came less than a week after Damascus agreed to tackle drug trafficking on its border with Jordan and Iraq and days after Amman seized its largest captagon shipment of the year.
Syrian-Chinese trade in 2022 reached its lowest point in 20 years due to surging global shipping costs, although China continues to rank among Syria’s largest trade partners. Meanwhile, Beijing’s contributions to earthquake relief have been minimal relative to other donors.
Although it is too early to assess the impact, the recent earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria will likely pose an additional challenge to Syrian investors, many of whom own businesses located in Turkey's earthquake-hit southern provinces.
Lebanon’s exports to Syria increased by 290 percent last year, according to the Lebanese Customs Authorities. Curiously, one commodity, polyethylene, made up 74 percent of Lebanon’s exports to Syria last year, surging by nearly 30,000 percent year-on-year despite accounting for lower volumes.
Syria has recently authorised traders to import commodities from Saudi Arabia without restrictions, a decision that is expected to enhance trade between the two countries.
Syria and Jordan recently organised the Jordanian-Syrian Economic Forum in Damascus to strengthen trade relations between the two countries and attract more Jordanian companies to the Syrian market.
The Iranian Cabinet has recently amended its free trade agreement with Syria to lift all customs tariffs on Syrian goods – an agreement that has been in the work for over a decade. Iran’s state-owned media outlet also stated that the Syrian government approved the recent amendment, though Syrian state officials have yet to make a statement on the matter.
The Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Protection agreed to import one million tonnes of wheat, mainly from Russia, highlighting Syria’s continuing dependency on its ally.
Syria is exporting significant volumes of phosphate to Iran, official data show, confirming the involvement of Tehran in Syria’s phosphate industry.
Syrian-Russian bilateral trade more than tripled in 2021, official records indicate, making Russia Syria's second-largest trade partner. Russian exports represented 98 percent of total trade between the two countries, in line with previous years.
Iraq and Syria have recently established a new business council and issued several decisions to boost and regulate economic bilateral trade.
Syrian-Chinese bilateral trade in 2021 declined for the second consecutive year, decreasing by 42 percent after falling by more than a third in 2020.
Although the Jordan government has implicated Iran-backed militias, as well as Syrian military groups, in rising cross-border drug trafficking to Jordan, bilateral trade between Jordan and Syria has increased.
Syria’s trade deficit stood at around EUR 3.3 billion last year, unchanged from 2020, according to official statements.
Cigarette revenues surged by 144 percent last year on the back of rising production and prices, according to the General Organisation of Tobacco.
Although Iranian goods are banned by the Syrian Salvation Government, the political arm of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, and the Turkish-backed Syrian Interim Government, they are nonetheless largely available in markets in northern and northeastern Syria due to their low prices. Though several social media campaigns have called for the boycott of Iranian goods on political grounds, financial difficulties appear to trump all other concerns as demand remains high.
Local traders in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria have accused an AANES-owned company of monopolising the import of sugar, as well as other food and non-food items, amid shortages and rising prices.
Iran’s non-oil trade with Syria in the first 9 months of the Iranian calendar year (March-December 2021) increased by 85 percent compared with the same period in 2020, according to Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines, and Agriculture. Trade between the two countries is likely to be higher than the reported figures if oil exports to Syria were included, as well as Iranian trade through the United Arab Emirates.
Commercial traffic across the Nassib-Jaber border crossing has improved after cross-border operations resumed in September. Meanwhile, local media in Syria have reported that revenues for the Syrian side of the crossing reached SYP 84 billion since the beginning of the year, a figure that should be taken with caution.