Establishing an Office
Furthermore, All documents must be translated into Arabic by a sworn translator.
The following information details the specific legal protections for patents, copyrights, and trademarks:
Patents: These are issued for fifteen year periods, provided the invention has been utilized within two years after the patent was granted.
Copyrights: Most books printed in Syria are in Arabic and by Arab authors. Despite government efforts, pirated computer software is also readily available.
Trademarks: These may be registered for ten-year periods. The first applicant is always entitled to registration.
Need for a Local
Specialties: While an attempt has been made to indicate the listed attorneys' specializations, most Syrian lawyers accept all types of cases.
Collection Agencies: No such firms operate in Syria, but most lawyers will handle collection cases.
Openness to Foreign
In June 1991, as part of its overall reform program to encourage the private sector, the government passed a new investment law --"Law Number 10"-- to promote investment in all sectors of the economy. The new law offers the same incentives to local and foreign investors. Specifically, companies that receive licenses under the new law are accorded duty free privileges for the import of capital goods and materials necessary for a project, including vehicles, and a tax holiday for the first five years of operation. Companies that export over 50 percent of their products enjoy a seven year tax holiday.
All applications for investment under the law must be screened and vetted through the Higher Council for Investment. The council meets at least once every two months. Membership includes the Prime Minister, and the Ministers of Economy, Agriculture, Transportation, Supply, Industry, Planning, Finance, and the Director of the Investment Bureau. No definitive criteria for approving investment is made explicit under the new law, but the council is more likely to approve a project if it:
Most foreign investment in Syria is in the energy sector. Beginning in the late 1980s, the government actively courted international oil companies to sign concession agreements to explore for oil. In 1990, twelve foreign firms had operations in Syria, but today, only three remain. Western firms departed because of disappointments over dry wells, rising costs, and friction with the Syrian government over contractual terms.
Right to Private
Ownership and Establishment
The standard of competitive equality is not applied to private enterprises competing with state enterprises in a number of important areas. For example, although a number of state banks, such as the Real Estate and Industrial Bank, are authorized to loan local currency to help finance private sector projects, state enterprises continue to have privileged access to local credit and exclusive access to official foreign exchange loans from the Commercial Bank of Syria. However, private companies can sometimes access offshore financing. Likewise, according to local business sources, state enterprises have priority in the allocations of commodities and material produced by other state enterprises. Public sector firms also appear to have greater access to public services, such as telecommunications and electricity.
The government has rejected "privatization" of state enterprises as a viable strategy because of the unmarketability of most state enterprises and the continued dependence of the national workforce on public sector employment.
Product From IPR Infringement
The regulation and enforcement of intellectual property rights falls under the purview of the Office of Property Protection of the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade. However, enforcement is inconsistent, requiring companies themselves to monitor the Syrian market for possible infringements.
Transparency of the
The absence of organized capital, foreign exchange, and financial markets continues to be an important impediment to private investment, both domestic and foreign. In 1994, the parliament approved legislation authorizing the re-opening of the Damascus stock market; however, it still awaits final approval. The government continues to impose strict foreign exchange controls on private sector operations outside the specific concessions granted under the new investment law to operate self-funding foreign exchange accounts at the Commercial Bank of Syria.
The government-controlled Syrian General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) oversees all aspects of union activity. The GFTU is affiliated with the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions. In the public sector, unions do not normally bargain collectively on wage issues, but union representatives participate with the representatives of the employer and Ministry of Labor in establishing sectoral minimum wages. In a country whose major industries are state-owned, workers make up the majority of each board of directors and union representatives are always included on those boards. They also monitor and enforce compliance with the labor law. In the private sector, unions are active in monitoring compliance with the laws and ensuring workers' health and safety. The unions, under the law, can undertake negotiations for collective contracts with employers, but there is no information available on whether such contracts envision that unions can also sue and be represented in court.
Markets and Portfolio Investment
There are no foreign banks operating in Syria. Furthermore, all Syrian banks are government-owned and offer only basic banking services. Local and foreign investors may acquire small loans from local banks through very complicated and impractical procedures.
Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are consistent with international norms in theory. In reality, however, local businesses do not comply with these regulations in order to avoid confiscatory tax rates.
There are no stock or bond markets in Syria.
Foreign oil partners in production sharing joint-ventures with the state oil company report delays in the recognition of "cost recovery" claims, although such payments are eventually approved.
The private sector has had no access to official foreign reserves since 1984. Under the new investment law, all foreign exchange operations must be generated from company operations and transacted through the investor's foreign exchange account at the Commercial Bank of Syria. No mechanism exists in the parallel "gray" foreign exchange market, funded from permitted private sector retained export earnings, for the repatriation of capital and profits.
Strict foreign exchange restrictions are enforced outside the concessions granted under law 10/1991. The export of capital requires the approval of the Central Bank, as does overseas borrowing. Foreign companies operating outside the new investment law may transfer capital only in accordance with the special agreements, usually in the form of a presidential decree, which allow their operation in Syria.
The government accepts binding international arbitration of investment disputes between foreign investors and the state in cases where the investment agreement or contract includes such a clause. Otherwise, local courts have jurisdiction. Syria is neither a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes nor of the New York Convention of 1958 on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards.