Discusses key economic indicators and trade statistics, which countries are dominant in the market, the U.S. market share, the political situation if relevant, the top reasons why U.S. companies should consider exporting to this country, and other issues that affect trade, e.g., terrorism, currency devaluations, trade agreements.
Last Published: 11/6/2018

Lebanon was the 72nd largest market for U.S. exports in 2016, according to U.S. Department of Commerce statistics.  The Lebanese Customs Authority reported that Lebanon’s total imports in 2016 reached USD 18.705 billion, of which USD 1.184 billion came from the United States.

In 2016, the United StatesLebanon was the 70th largest market for U.S. exports in 2017.  The Lebanese Customs Administration reported that Lebanon’s total imports in 2017 reached USD 19.582 billion, of which $1.442 billion or 7 percent were purchased from the United States. In 2017, the United States ranked as Lebanon’s third largest trading partner behind China and Italy.  According to Lebanese Customs statistics, the major U.S. exports to Lebanon were mineral fuel and oil ($452 million), vehicles ($362 million), chemical industrial products ($199 million), machinery and electrical instruments ($112 million), prepared foodstuffs, beverages and tobacco ($56 million), and vegetable products ($56 million).

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that Lebanon's growth will be below potential in the near term, hovering around 1.2-1.5 percent for 2017 and 2018.  Growth is projected to increase gradually towards three percent in the medium term.  Inflation rose to five percent in 2017, and the IMF forecasts it will remain below five percent in 2018. Lebanon is a free market and highly dollarized economy.  The average exchange rate is pegged at 1,507.5 Lebanese Pounds (LBP) to one U.S Dollar.  The country has no restrictions on the movement of capital, capital gains, remittances, dividends, or the inflow and outflow of funds.  The Lebanese government’s intervention in foreign trade is minimal. 

Lebanon faces major fiscal policy challenges, notably a high deficit and a high level of public debt which rose to 153 percent of GDP in 2017.  Debt service dampens government investment in vital public services such as power generation, roads, bridges, dams, and waste management.  The business climate will remain sensitive to domestic and regional political and security developments.  In particular,the Syrian crisis has negatively impacted the Lebanese economy, straining further its weak infrastructure and poor service delivery, and cutting off one of the country's major markets and principal transport corridor to the East and the Gulf.
The U.S. government has neither a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with Lebanon, nor an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation.  The U.S. government signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with Lebanon in 2006.  Since 1999, Lebanon has had observer status at the World Trade Organization (WTO) but has yet to accede to the organization.  In 2002, Lebanon signed an association agreement with the European Union that entered into force in 2006. 

Lebanon announced its intention to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global standard to promote transparency and good governance in the oil, gas, and mineral sectors.  The government is currently working to meet EITI membership conditions and standards which require active involvement of civil society organizations in industry oversight, as well as annual data on licenses, contracts, beneficial ownership, payments, revenues, and production.

There are several good reasons for U.S. companies to export to Lebanon.  Lebanese consumers are fond of U.S. products, given their high quality, safety standard, and competitive price.  English is widely spoken in the business community and many Lebanese have first-hand knowledge of the United States through education or work experience.  Lebanon has a developed banking sector which is well-managed, well-capitalized, and regulated with strong links to the international financial system.  Payments for business transactions are often made in U.S. dollars, and nearly all Lebanese banks have U.S. correspondent banking relationships that facilitate financial transactions between U.S. exporters and Lebanese importers.
ranked as Lebanon’s third largest trading partner behind China and Italy.  According to Lebanese Customs statistics, major U.S. exports to Lebanon were vehicles (USD 326 million), mineral fuel and oil (USD 237 million), products of chemical industries (USD 193 million), machinery and electrical instruments (USD 118 million), prepared foodstuffs, beverages and tobacco (USD 68 million), and vegetable products (USD 47 million).

Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor estimated GDP growth at two percent in 2016.  Quoting the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he forecasts growth to reach two to three percent in 2017.  Inflation was negative in 2016 and the IMF forecasts it to reach two percent in 2017.

Lebanon’s economy follows a laissez-faire model.  The economy is highly dollarized and the average exchange rate is stable at 1507.5 Lebanese Pounds (LBP)to the U.S Dollar.  The country has no restrictions on the movement of capital, capital gains, remittances, dividends, or the inflow and outflow of funds.  The Lebanese government’s intervention in foreign trade is minimal.

Lebanon faces major financial challenges, notably a very high level of public debt and large external financing needs.  The business climate will remain sensitive to domestic and regional political and security developments.  Spillover from the Syrian crisis, including refugee inflows, will continue to impact public infrastructure and services, and growth, which is expected to remain below potential in the near term.

The U.S. Government has neither a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with Lebanon nor an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation.  The U.S. Government signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with Lebanon in 2006. Since 1999, Lebanon has had observer status at the World Trade Organization (WTO), but has yet to accede to the organization.  In 2002, Lebanon signed an association agreement with the European Union that entered into force in 2006.

Lebanon announced its commitment to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (EITI), a global standard to promote transparency of the extractive sector.  The standard requires annual data on licenses, contracts, beneficial ownership, payments, revenues and production. 
There are many good reasons for U.S. companies to export to Lebanon.  Lebanese consumers are fond of U.S. products, given their high quality and competitive price.  English is widely spoken in the business community and many Lebanese have personal experience in the U.S., either through education or work experience.  Lebanon has a developed banking sector.  Payments for business transactions are often made in U.S. dollars, and nearly all Lebanese banks have American correspondent banking relationships that facilitate financial transactions between U.S. exporters and Lebanese importers.

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



Lebanon Trade Development and Promotion