The long process of deciding whether to sign the EU Association Agreement rumbles on.
The EU finally agreed to the deal in October. Syria surprised Europe by saying it needed time to decide. Now it has admitted why – Syrian businessmen are concerned about competition from European companies.
There has been much criticism across the developing world about the disadvantageous deals the EU offers. Many African countries have had their domestic economies stifled because the EU negotiated a disadvantageous deal. The Europeans – the stronger party – had the Africans over a barrel.
But Syria is different. It is not desperate for access to the European market, although many exporters would love the chance to sell without EU import duties. Syria already has experience of free trade zones – with Turkey, and with the GCC. And Syrian businesses are saying the costs outweigh the benefits.
For consumers too, there is a dilemma. If the deal goes ahead, cheap EU consumer goods will flood the market. But jobs could be lost as Syrian companies fail to compete.