Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, Mohammed Saleh, indicated that the volume of trade exchanged between Iraq and Syria fell to below 700 million dollars a year from a previous level of over 4 billion dollars, or to 17.5 percent of its original level, due to the lack of security and political stability in Syria against the backdrop of popular protests against the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad.
In recent years, Iraqi markets depended on Syrian products for 60 percent of their basic needs.
An official from the Association of Iraq Traders, Hassan Dahlaki, told Al Hayat newspaper that, “Syrian goods are characterized specifically by the fact that they cannot be secured from other countries at a reasonable price, such as with tissue paper, stationery, spices and raw materials for some industries, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and manufactures, especially cotton products and various canned goods and cleaning materials.”
He added that these materials are necessary for the market, sell quickly, and match the tastes of the Iraqi consumer, which are similar to those of Syria.
Dahlaki noted that the Iraqi merchants who deal with European countries for the supply of building materials and rebar procure them through Syrian ports, which are the closes. Now they need to go through Turkish and Jordanian ports. Merchants have been turning towards Turkish goods, even though they are more expensive than Syrian goods, as well as to Chinese goods.
He pointed out that many Iraqis owners of capital in Syria, especially in the Aleppo area, in both the industrial and commercial sectors, have returned to Iraq after their businesses were exposed to threats.
Economic analyst Abbas Ghalibi observed that trade exchanged between Iraq and Syria last year reached $5 billion, and that Iraq’s neighbors, noting the vacuum left by the absence of Syrian goods, have rushed in to supply the Iraqi market.
He stressed that, “Events in Syria caused paralysis to the industrial sector, so the Syrian merchant relied on his inventories to deliver them to Iraq in order to restore the largest possible amount of capital in anticipation of the deterioration of local conditions in a major way.”
He noted that, “The Syrian market began to suffer many shortcomings, including the securing of raw materials and the lack of foreign currency, the stoppage of foreign banking relations, and the shift of trade exchange between the two countries to three methods: either bartering, paying cash, or settling debts with other partners.”
Saleh indicated that the volume of exchange between the private sectors of the two countries last year were over $3 billion, but is expected to drop this year to less than $700 million, and to be limited to only fruits and vegetables.