by Hummam Sheikh Ali
DAMASCUS, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- As the military confrontations have declined in most areas of Syria except for one last rebel bastion in the northwest, foreign businesses are considering now as a right time to enter the Syrian market.
The Damascus International Fair, the country's largest trade fair, has begun last Thursday on the country's largest fairground just outside the capital Damascus.
Around 48 countries, as well as 1,700 foreign and local companies, are taking part in the week-long trade fair.
The Syrian government has been promoting the reconstruction process as the next phase for the post-war period, now that the army is preparing for the last major battle against the last major rebel stronghold in the northwestern province of Idlib.
The Syrian government has repeatedly said that the "friendly countries," such as Iran, Russia and China, will have the priority to take part in the reconstruction process in Syria, where large areas are in ruins.
While taking a walk at the fair, one can see various pavilions of foreign and local companies showcasing their products and potentials.
Most of the participants were from countries that have maintained good relations with the Syrian government throughout the crisis, as Western companies cannot do business or take part in projects in Syria due to the Western sanctions.
Although there were a variety of business pavilions such as clothes, electronics or vehicles companies, the main products showcasing at the fair were construction-related.
Iranian and Russian companies were showing products mostly used in the reconstruction process such as bulldozers, electricity cables, drillers and so on.
At the Iranian pavilion, a total of 54 companies took part in the fair, 30 of which specialized in construction, while the rest are in other fields such as cars, carpets as well as home appliances and agriculture machinery.
Muhammad Javad, an Iranian representative of a company specialized in infrastructure rehabilitation such as dams, roads, tunnels, airports, and bridges, told Xinhua that this is the appropriate time to do construction business in Syria.
"It's the best time to enter the Syrian market because the war has finished and the area is completely safe and any company or country can enter this market," he said.
Alexander, a Russian representative specialized in cables, said there is a big demand for the infrastructure materials in Syria.
"There is a huge demand for this product because it is necessary for the rehabilitation of the country, so we think that we are maybe useful," he said.
Another representative, Alick, whose company is specialized in tower cranes work, said that there are potential customers in Syria.
He, however, said that his company and others have questions possibly about the trade system here.
"It's a very big and potential market. We have a lot of questions but hopefully these questions will be solved soon. We believe in Syria," he said.
Chinese products have also been displayed on the fair, such as locally-assembled Chinese cars and construction vehicles like bulldozers and cranes.
Zhao Chen, a Chinese representative of a company specialized in construction machinery, said he can find a lot of opportunities in Syria.
"I think this exhibition is a success and we can find a lot of potential customers who want to buy machines from us. I have the confidence in the Syrian market in the future," he said.
Not only foreign countries, but also local companies are eager to participate in the rebuilding process, especially those who have the ability to carry out reconstruction work such as the Baalbaki Group, a leading enterprise in Syria and overseas.
Ihsan Baalbaki, manager of the Baalbaki Group, told Xinhua that many Syrian businessmen have started returning to Syria to research on the possibility of rebuilding their destroyed businesses and start over.
"Today we started building what is destroyed. Not only us but also many of our friends who left the country are coming back and trying to study the possibilities of rebuilding their factories to start again," Baalbaki said.
He noted, however, that the process of reconstruction takes time "and the Syrians are known as patient people."
"The reconstruction will definitely start soon," he added.
Syria is expected to be a magnet for foreign trades and businesses in the coming stage particularly in the field of construction, but the main issue facing such optimism is the Western sanctions, which deter many foreign companies from doing business in Syria.
Mamoun Hamdan, the Syrian minister of finance, told Xinhua recently that the sanctions were unilaterally imposed and Syria has good relations with many countries around the world.
Syria has worked to overcome the unilateral Western sanctions through self-reliance and cooperation as well as trade exchange with friendly countries.
Last month, the United Nations announced that the seven-year war in Syria implied destruction worth nearly 400 billion U.S. dollars, which means that companies from around the world will show up to do business in Syria.
According to estimates published by the World Bank in late 2017, the long-standing war in Syria has ravaged its infrastructure and caused a 226-billion-dollar loss to its economy.