Business / Economy

Quality, affordable Chinese goods in high demand in Gaza

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-04-01 10:00

Nabil Abu Hashem receives dozens of local businessmen at his Gaza office every day, helping them import goods from China.

Together with his two sons, the 63-year-old man founded Wastco, a customs clearance and support company, in China's Guangzhou, Guangdong province, 14 years ago.

Wastco enabled Abu Hashem to build a solid base to facilitate the imports of goods from China to Gaza.

Chinese-made goods are in high demand among Gazans because of their high quality and reasonable prices, he said.

According to Abu Hashem, most of the commodities demanded by his business partners are garments, watches and cosmetics.

Inside his tiny two-story office in the heart of Gaza City, Abu Hashem discusses the business deals and detailed procedures with importers.

"After reaching a deal, my company in Guangzhou starts the purchase procedures, gets the goods and then ships them to Gaza," he said.

Abu Hashem, who was originally a teacher, started his business with China back in 1980 when he launched a company in Gaza to import computers from China and sell them in the coastal Palestinian territory.

When the political and economic conditions worsened in Gaza after violence erupted between the Palestinians and the Israelis in 2000, Abu Hashem decided to move his business to China where he started Wastco.

"This decision was risky, but I worked hard and my company grew notably," he said.

"I first thought I might face some difficulties dealing with Chinese businessmen, but they were, and still are, very helpful and cooperative."

On average, Abu Hashem can clinch 10 deals for Gaza traders every month, a reflection of the reliability of his company.

"My company is distinguished because we complete and ship the goods really fast and the costs are lower than any other companies," Abu Hashem noted.

Goods are usually shipped from China to the Israeli seaports, then into Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza.

Despite the smooth process of getting and shipping the goods into Gaza, Abu Hashem still suffers from a "serious problem".

"Importers in Gaza, who pay an import tax to the Palestinian government in (the West Bank city of) Ramallah for goods delivered through Kerem Shalom crossing, also have to pay an additional tax to Hamas authorities in Gaza," Abu Hashem complained.

"The additional tax that we pay the authorities in Gaza worsens the already ailing market," Abu Hashem said. "That is why prices in Gaza have skyrocketed."

Islamic Hamas movement has been ruling Gaza since it seized the territory by force in 2007 after routing forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas, who now rules the West Bank.

One more problem for Abu Hashem is his inability over the past two years to visit China, as Egypt closed its borders with Gaza after 2013, only allowing for occasional opening of the Rafah crossing. This year, the crossing was open for only two days in February.

"I used to visit China once every two months. I really miss visiting China," he said.

There are no official statistics on the imports of goods from China to Gaza, but media officer at the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce in Gaza, Maher al-Tabbaa, estimated that more than 50 percent of goods imported into the Israeli-blockaded territory come from China.

"Chinese goods are highly demanded among Gazans since they can afford the prices, and the quality is really good," al-Tabbaa siad.

He added that around some 2,000 Gaza traders import goods from abroad. However, they face many challenges due to the Israeli embargo imposed on Gaza since 2007.

The economy in the Gaza Strip has significantly deteriorated due to an ongoing blockade and frequent military confrontations between Palestinian militants and Israel.

According to a January report by the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip reached 41 percent.

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