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Syria - Selling and buying

Contents extracted from the comprehensive atlas of international trade by Export Entreprises

Reaching the consumers

Marketing opportunities

Consumer behavior: Due to a low purchasing power among the majority of consumers, the price factor is essential when choosing a product. However, the crossing towards a market economy is highly changing the life style and the consuming habits of the Syrian population. New products are beginning to emerge in the Syrian market: luxury cars, computers and satellite televisions... The liberalization of the economy has generated a real revolution in the fields of clothing and new technologies of information and communication.
Consumer profile: The liberalization of the Syrian economy is accentuating the inequalities in the country. A new class of consumers is surfacing. At the same time, the lowest social class is becoming more impoverished.
Main advertising agencies:

Distribution network

Evolution of the sector: There are two types of distribution circuits. On the public side, an import monopoly is held in a specific sector by a structure which has its own distribution network. On the private side, the concept of mass distribution hardly exists. The import agents who are also wholesale distributors work for companies. There are no supermarkets or hypermarkets, and consumer goods sales outlets are the retailers. The role of a vendor is the role of a consultant. Lots of progress remain to be made for shelf products, their presentation etc. Thanks to the growth and improvement in transportation, distribution has become easier and faster. Moreover, it is essential to know that  the concept of quality is relatively important, an advantage for foreign products.

It is important to note that the crossing from a strongly nationalized economic system to a social market has an influence in the distribution system: Cham City Center is the first shopping center in Syria, it opened its doors in 2006 and it has largely expanded in 2009 (many franchises have established their businesses there). Cham City Center includes, among others, the first Syrian hypermarket, very modern and keeping the same quality criteria of the French mass market retailers (such as Carrefour).

Types of outlet: Companies that have their own distribution network are rare. Most products are sold in bazaars, groceries and specialized shops. But shopping centers and multi-brand stores are starting to appear in Damascus which could make good distribution relays, especially for top of the range products.

Market access procedures

Economic Cooperation: The country is part of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), a pact of the Arab League entered into force in January 2005 which aims to form an Arabic free trade area. Syria also signed a bilateral free trade agreement with Turkey and started negotiations for an Association Agreement with the EU in October 2004, but final signatures are still pending.
Non tariff barriers: Imports are subject to a licensing system and some products are prohibited to import.
Average Customs Duty (excluding agricultural products): The Syrian government is working to harmonize its import tariffs and custom duties, trying to adapt them to the WTO standards. The countries that do not have a trade agreement with Syria are subject to a system of progressive tax rates. These customs duties vary between 1 and 200%. The average is 25%. Raw materials are taxed at 5-10%, equipment for industry 10-20%, foodstuffs 1-15%, and machines 30-60%. Tourism vehicles weighting under one ton are taxed 150%. A surtax is levied on products meant to be sold to military barracks, schools and local councils. This surtax is between 6 and 35%.  Customs duties, which were practically prohibitive until now, are being reviewed and lowered in the context of an agreement of association between Syria and the European Union and Syria's eventual membership to the WTO. In this context, customs formalities have been simplified and the list of prohibited import products has been reduced. 

Since 2006, the customs laws have been relaxed thanks to the establishment of an automated system. The customs declarations are computerized and the database is updated on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, the crisis context had a disastrous effect in the modernization of the system: In February 2009, the government officially proceeded to raise customs duties for cottons and established a minimum price for imported clothing, also eliminated certain taxes for exporters in order to protect the Syrian textile market.

Customs classification: The Convention on the Harmonized System came into force in the Syrian Arab Republic on January 1st 2009.
Import procedures: All goods imported from abroad are subject to the payment of duties and taxes. Customs duties vary depending on the need of the product, which is estimated by the Syrian Government. The new system is based on the customs value determination which is the compromise value. Simplified, it allows a faster treatment of dispatched goods and a certain transparency regarding the assessment and the right to recourse to the decisions taken by the customs institutions. Applications for licenses are carried out at the Syrian Federation of Chambers of Commerce, through the services of the Embassies in the country of origin. For further information, consult the website for Customs legislation (in arabic).
Customs website: Syrian Investment Agency

Organizing goods transport

Organizing goods transport to and from: The means of transportation mostly used for the transportation of goods is the train (2,750 km. of railway). However, the network is getting old and is relatively slow.
Sea transport organizations:
Air transport organizations:
Rail transport organizations:

Domestic business directories

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