The Newly appointed Lebanese Economy Minister Mansour Bteish said on Wednesday that his Ministry is looking forward to boosting ties with China in the near future, Bteish said in an interview.

“We look forward to increasing the volume of business between Lebanon and China in many areas,” Bteish said.

One way for Lebanon to achieve this is to try to create balance in trade between the two countries.

“We have a lot of good products in Lebanon which we want to promote in huge foreign markets such as China,” he said.

Lebanon is well known for manufacturing certain products that are of interest for international markets such as the Lebanese wine, olive oil and chocolate.

In 2017, the bilateral trade volume reached nearly 1.9 billion U.S. dollars, making China the second largest trade partner of Lebanon.

Figures released by Lebanese customs showed that during 2013-2016, China remained Lebanon’s largest trade partner and the largest source of imports.

Lebanon’s top imports from China include electrical machinery and equipment, plastics, furniture and vehicles, while Lebanon’s exports to China mainly include copper, plastics, beverages and cocoa.

According to Bteish, Lebanon can also be considered as a very important platform for investment for China in different sectors including the financial sector, industry and SMEs.

“It is true that our country is small but it is full of opportunities for investment,” he said.

The economy minister noted that China should also consider Lebanon as an important platform for investment in Syria’s reconstruction in the coming years.

“We also look forward to receiving Chinese expertise to come and implement projects in Lebanon within CEDRE program,” he said.

The CEDRE is an international conference which pledged to release 11 billion dollars in loans and donations in support of Lebanon’s development and reform, to revamp its ailing infrastructure and bolster its economy.

Bteish added that he has already discussed with the Chinese ambassador to Lebanon the potential of cooperation between the two countries in trade, culture and tourism.

Bteish noted that that his ministry is studying the opportunity of Lebanon’s participation in the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation scheduled for April in Beijing.

Proposed by China in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa through the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road.

Meanwhile, the minister said that one of his main priorities is to reduce the trade deficit in Lebanon which exceeds 16 billion dollars.

“We are importing with more than 20 billion dollars a year while we are exporting for less than 4 billion dollars,” he said, adding that Lebanon must promote its products in foreign markets.

“We will take measures to safeguard our production amid the competition caused by foreign markets. There is a special committee for that, but we won’t increase custom fees on imported products for the time being,” he said.

Bteish added that Lebanon also aims at attracting investments to the country by modernising the country’s infrastructure such as roads and telecom services.