Syria's Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade, Dr. Mohammed Al-Imadi opened the 21st Damascus International?
Syria's Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade, Dr. Mohammed Al-Imadi opened the 21st Damascus International Fair on Thursday, (25 July). The fair is the biggest annual trade gathering in the Arab world and this year there is a record guest list that reflects the changing political scene in the Middle East.
A 21-gun salute was fired as Dr. Imadi, representing President Hafez Al-Assad, cut the traditional silk ribbon, declaring the fair open.
Fifteen Arab states are among the 38 countries participating in the three-week exhibition and the most notable new exhibitor is the United States, which is taking part for the first time in 10 years, following the resumption of diplomatic ties with Syria.
Other newcomers include India, making a come-back after 10 years, Pakistan after 14 years and Austria after 16 years.
The American presence would have been unthinkable even a year ago. But the October war with Israel and the U.S. Secretary os State Henry Kissinger's successful disengagement shuttle managed to break down a decade of Syrian-U.S. hostility and mutual suspicion. President Nixon accepted President Assad's invitation to take part in the fair during his visit to Damascus in June.
The U.S. pavilion occupies an area of 1.000 square metres and includes a space exhibit with moon rock, lunar equipment and displays from the Apollo and Skylab missions.
Foremost among the other national exhibitors are the Soviet Union -- showing mainly industrial and agricultural equipment -- and The People's Republic of China which has displays of carved ivory and a variety of consumer goods.
The fairground area covers 270,000 square metres on the outskirts of Damascus and included gardens, lakes, fountains, amusement centres and cafes as well as the formal pavilions.
Official reports say that more than two million people visited last year's fair, mostly from the Arab countries. Commercial deals concluded during the past five fairs are estimated to amount to 1,000 million Syrian pounds, (about 100 million pounds sterling).