USvendors could be given the green light to officially begin developing channels for their products inSyriaafter trade sanctions came a step closer to being eased this week.
Strict US export laws currently prevent IT and telecommunications providers such as HP, Microsoft and Cisco from establishing a formal presence in Syria, but that could change if the US goes ahead with granting sanction waivers for technology products.
Syrian channel players are now awaiting further clarification of the situation following conflicting statements from both parties during the past two days.
Reports from Syria’s national news agency suggested the US government had completely removed its five-year embargo on ICT equipment, but US officials have since indicated that they have only promised to process all eligible applications for export licences as quickly as possible.
“The US administration did not announce a complete lifting of the sanctions, but they are easing approvals on export licences as you need to apply for such approval for every deal,” explained Ayman Mousleh, general manager at the Syrian branch of IT distributor Cham Data. “They are looking at each one on a case-by-case basis and they are willing to approve them, whereas no licences were approved under the previous administration. Any changes to the sanctions should be passed by Congress for approval.”
Sources say the easing of trade restrictions is unlikely to have much of an impact on business in the consumer market as US products are easily bought from neighbouring countries and resold through the local channel.
However, it could lead to a shake-up in the government and enterprise sectors as companies will be able to bid for high-end projects with US products.
Dr. Safwan Haddad, CEO at Damascus-based IT retailer Digital Net, believes it will only be possible to assess how the channel will benefit from reduced sanctions once they have been confirmed, but speculates that it could prompt manufacturers to give “more focus” to the market.
“It could end up meaning that more technical support is provided from the vendors because at the moment everything is hidden — there are no authorised service centres or official warranties inside the Syrian market,” he said. “Without the embargo, vendors could approach the market directly and this would increase the level of support for end-users.”