Lebanon is a founding member of the United Nations and the League of Arab States since 1945 and is a member of all international organizations under the auspice of the United Nations (UNESCO, FAO, UNCTAD…), the World Bank and its affiliates, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Development Association.
Lebanon maintains diplomatic relations with 147 countries and has 95 diplomatic and consular missions abroad, hosts 141 diplomatic missions including the diplomatic missions of the EU and the Arab League.
Lebanon also hosts a number of international organizations such as the United Nations Regional Office for Education, Science and Culture in the Arab Countries (UNESCO), the United Nations High Comission for Refugees (UNHCR), the Food and Agriculture Office of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Fund for Childhood, The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the UNDP and many others. The Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) relocated its headquarters to Beirut in October 1997 and the World Bank opened an office in Beirut in January 2000.
In 2009, the General Assembly of the United Nations elected Lebanon to serve as a nonpermanent member of the Security Council for a two‐year term starting January 1, 2010.
TRADE AND INVESTMENT AGREEMENTS
Lebanon has a long tradition of openness to the international community, with close ties to the Arab world, Europe and America.
The Government is implementing a comprehensive strategy for trade liberalization through the ratification of various trade agreements with major trade partners in order to integrate Lebanon further into the global economy.
- The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Agreement (EMP): The agreement was signed in 2002 while the interim agreement came into force in 2003 and the final agreement in 2006. The Agreement has put in place the necessary conditions for progressive and reciprocal liberalization of trade in goods with a view to establishing a bilateral free trade area including relevant provisions on customs cooperation, competition, protection of intellectual, industrial and commercial property, and services. The EU and Lebanon finalized a review of the EMP in November 2015. Lebanon signed the Convention on Pan-Euro-Mediterranean Preferential Rules of Origin in October 2014, which parliament ratified in February 2017.
- Free Trade Agreement with the European Free Trade Association(EFTA): In June 2004, a free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Lebanon was signed which grants Lebanese industrial exports (including fish and other marine products, as well as processed agricultural products) free access to the following EU markets: Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland.
- Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA): Since 2005, as a member of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), Lebanon receives full exemption from tariffs on all agricultural and industrial goods traded between the seventeen Arab member countries.
- Lebanon-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA): In 2006, Lebanon and the US signed an agreement where they pledged to foster an environment conducive to mutual trade and investment. The TIFA requires both parties to set up a United States-Lebanon Council on Trade and Investment that would meet twice a year or more to consult on trade and investment impediments and other issues of concern. However, this council has not yet been set up.
- Lebanon-Turkey Association Agreement: In 2010, Lebanon signed an association agreement to establish a free trade area and reduce barriers to the free movement of goods, services, capital, and people between Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and Jordan over the subsequent ten years. However, this agreement was put on hold following the Syrian crisis that started in 2011.
Lebanon is also an observer in the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1999. In 2001, the Government submitted to the WTO the Memorandum of Foreign Trade Regime as a second step toward its accession. In October 2002, the Government entered into negotiations with the WTO for full membership and has provided replies to queries presented by member states. To date, seven Working Party meetings have taken place in Geneva, the most recent of which was in October 2009 in which the Working Party reviewed the Lebanon’s responses to the issues raised by member states. Various legalization reforms are in the pipeline (such as the draft law on competition, draft law on the intellectual property…) that are expected to accelerate the process of Lebanon’ accession to the WTO.
BILATERAL INVESTMENT TREATIES
Lebanon has signed so far 54 bilateral Agreements for the Promotion and Protection of Investments with 50 countries to provide foreign investors with a legal framework whereby the most favorable setting is established. The treaties provide a fair and equitable treatment on a non-discriminatory basis, and a full protection and security of foreign investments in both countries.
DOUBLE TAXATION AGREEMENTS
To facilitate trading across borders and foster international business development, Lebanon has signed 34 Conventions for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion on Taxes from Income and Capital with 32 countries. These conventions promote the exchange of goods and services, the inflow of capital, and technology by avoiding double taxation, on one hand, and the prevention of fiscal evasion through administrative assistance between the contracting parties on the other.