Syrian rebels' seizure of the main frontier crossing with Jordan has dealt a heavy blow to the Damascus government's efforts to revive a once thriving export trade crippled by civil war, and is also hurting businesses across the region.
Western-backed mainstream insurgents took control of the Nasib crossing three weeks ago, closing the chief conduit for bilateral trade worth over $2 billion a year.
Along with Syrian and Jordanian firms involved in the border trade, Lebanese exporters are also feeling the pain as they are no longer able send goods by truck through Syria and Jordan to their major markets in the Gulf. Exporters are being forced to turn to a far more costly sea and land route via Egypt to reach consumers in the wealthy oil producing states.
"Nasib in particular is a catastrophe for us and for our products and also for the Jordanian side too because it also handled cargo and commercial exchanges," Muhanad al-Asfar, a senior member of the Syrian Exporters' Union told state television this week.
Syria, home to an ancient mercantile culture, was once a crossroads for trade between Europe and the Arabian peninsula, carrying billions of dollars of goods arriving from Turkey and heading for the Gulf. Its own producers were also major suppliers to the region.
This trade has dived during four years of crisis, which began with a peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad and descended into civil war. Now Damascus is trying to rebuild Syrian industry and exports to withstand sanctions imposed by the West and defeat the insurgency.
At least 40 percent of industrial capacity was left idle, but firms have moved some production away from areas worst hit by the fighting. The government is pushing them hard to raise exports needed to earn scarce foreign currency and boost imports of essential raw materials.
"Syria's priority is to get foreign exchange and not to import goods that are produced locally. I want to preserve my foreign currency to buy essential goods," Thaer Fayad, head of foreign trade in the Economy Ministry, told state television.
Syrian exports climbed back to $1.8 billion last year, the highest level since the crisis began in 2011, according to Ihab Smandar, the president of the state-run Exports Promotion Authority. However, this fell far short of the import bill, which he estimated at $4.3 billion, and remained a small fraction of exports in 2010 which totalled $12 billion.
Until now Syria's southern border has played a leading role in the revival drive: Jordanian figures show two-way trade with Syria was in the region of $2 billion last year.
The Nasib crossing on the main Damascus-Amman highway grew in importance due to a steady rise in exports of garments and consumer goods from the plants that Syrian entrepreneurs relocated to government-controlled areas in Damascus and the Mediterranean coastal region.
نستخدم ملفات الكوكيز لنسهل عليك استخدام مواقعنا الإلكترونية ونكيف المحتوى والإعلانات وفقا لمتطلباتك واحتياجاتك الخاصة، لتوفير ميزات وسائل التواصل الاجتماعية ولتحليل حركة المرور لدينا...اعرف أكثر