Import regulations and customs duties
Libyan importing regulations are quite complex and regularly modified. Products are subject to different laws according to the category to which they belong. It is forbidden to import some products, which are identified in a list to the General Popular Committee for the Economy and Commerce decree number 475 dated July 2005, which modified that published by decree number 84 of 5th June 2003. Amongst these can be found:
- live pigs, their flesh, fat, skin and derived products.
- Wine and alcoholic drinks.
- Eggs destined for consumption; chickens and birds, either live or slaughtered, with the exception of those destined for reproduction.
- Fresh fruit (citrus fruit, grapes, figs, apricots, watermelons, dates, plums and peaches), olive oil, vegetables that are either fresh, frozen, dried or ground and are destined for consumption, with the exception of dried beans.
- Mineral waters, either still or carbonated.
- Traditional clothing.
However, within the perspective of joining the WTO (World Trade Organisation), the importing regulations have been greatly loosened with, in particular, the abolishing of import licenses (nevertheless, all merchandise must be accompanied by a certificate of origin). Today, apart from prohibited products, most merchandise enters the country freely.
State-owned companies nevertheless control products belonging to regulated sectors such as the financial sector, telecommunications and wholesale and retail sales. All imports must be registered with the General People's Committee for Economy and Trade from which a general import license must be obtained.
Through decision number 83 of 25th May 2005, the authorities created a specific organisation, the GSPLAS (General Authority for Control of Commodities and Products). It has 3 main functions:
- carry out checks on imported medical and agricultural products,
- record products and establish certifications,
- exercise the right of quarantine, and prevent the import of animals or vegetables that are diseased or polluted.
New laws concerning the Libyan legal framework are regularly voted. The latest modifications date from summer 2005.
Thus, the general customs duty of 35% that applied to 3 500 products has been replaced by what is known as a “port tax” of 4%.
Moreover, decree number 139 of 25 August 2005 divided 84 products into two lists:
- those that, as well as the port tax of 4%, are subject to a production tax of 2% and a consumption tax of 25%.
- those that, as well as the port tax of 4%, are subject to a production tax of 2% and a consumption tax of 50%. This last category groups 13 luxury products, such as works of art, vehicles of more than 3 000 cc, etc.
Decree number 475 of 6th July 2005 specifies the 17 products that it is forbidden to import.
Thanks to assistance given to those setting up in Libya, some products are exonerated from customs duties, for example, equipment necessary for the completion of a project in Libya (see the Libyan investment agency)
Regulations governing payments
Sales contracts are settled exclusively by irrevocable letters of credit, whose opening takes an average of 6 months.
The retail market in Libya remains traditional, with a strong presence of local shops. This is explained by the low purchasing power of Libyans, which has tended to diminish because of the wage freeze (since 1981) and the devaluation carried out in 1990. Modern retailing is absent from Libya, even though what seem like small supermarkets are beginning to appear.
The Business to Consumer (B to C) market
Retailing today still remains under state control. And yet, the Libyan authorities have encouraged the appearance of private operators by abolishing import licenses. The process of privatisation has, however, been slowed down by the maintenance of subsidies on certain products, to the extent that today, they remain 90% subsidised and are distributed by the National Supply Company at extremely low prices.
In the large towns, shops resembling supermarkets are appearing: these are small trading companies (100 to 150m²), offering food products (dry and fresh products), toiletries and household products. The large foreign retail chains have not yet shown interest in this market, even though there are no local large and medium-sized supermarket chains.
Non-food retail commerce has also kept its traditional structure with local shops and souks. Thus there is:
- the Talatha souk for household equipment,
- the Sharaa Errachid market for clothing / shoes and textiles,
- the El Fellah souk for spare parts for cars and garage equipment.
Commercial centres are starting to be set up in the large towns, like the El Mehari shopping centre, which occupies two storeys, and whose owner does not hesitate to source supplies from foreign exporters.
The Business to Business (B to B) market
The sector that is by far the most profitable is that of oil (Libya was the 21st largest world producer in 2004). This sector is regulated by law number 25 of 1955, which governs the oil industry. The oil reserves, estimated at 36 billion barrels, combined with Libya's new-found acceptability on the international scene, have aroused the envy of several foreign oil companies. It is the NOC (National Oil Company) that holds all the rights and it has already auctioned 95 blocks in 2005. It still plans to make numerous calls to tender as it intends to sell 265 licenses over the next few years.
The most common practice is to use a commercial agent, whose activity is subject to law number 6 of 6th March 2004. It stipulates that the representative must conclude a contract or an official agreement with the foreign representatives covering, among other things, the type of commercial representation, the duration, the field of activity, the geographical zone and the remuneration of the representative. The latter must hand over a copy of the contracts or conventions as soon as the activity begins. The rights and obligations of the agent are regulated by the Libyan commercial code.
For certain types of products (public transport vehicles, agricultural machines, motorbikes, photocopiers, fax machines, radios and PCs, TV sets, vehicles for building and civil engineering and household electric appliances), on-site representation by a commercial agent is obligatory.
Transportation of goods
The Libyan road network totals 84 000 km of asphalted roads. The road network is of good quality, particularly the coast road between Tunis (in Tunisia) and Tripoli and that between Benghazi and Tobruk, which goes as far as Alexandria in Egypt.
0 km. Rail transport has not functioned since 1965 and the old infrastructure has been dismantled. However, a project is in progress to construct a new network. 3 170 Km of track is currently under construction.
Libya has about 2000 km of coastline. The main ports are those of Tripoli, Benghazi, Derna, Marsa al Burayqah, Misurata, Ras Lanuf, Tobruk, Al Khums and Zuwarah. For Tripoli, see also the information on the Web site of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Tripoli & North Lebanon.
It is possible to reach Libyan territory via the international airports of Tripoli or Benghazi. The country has 8 airports reserved for internal flights, for which Libyan Airlines has a monopoly. However, the situation may change, as the government would like to privatize the company. New companies should therefore appear in Libya.
To be able to penetrate the market, certain products must be accompanied by certificates:
- the halal certificate for meat and its derived products. It is delivered by representatives of the Muslim religion in your country.
- the health certificate is obligatory for fruit and vegetables, seeds and other plants. It is the regional plant protection service that issues it.
- the health certificate necessary for meat. This is delivered by the departmental management of veterinary services.
Regarding standards, the Libyan government has reformed the NCSM (National Centre for Standards and Metrology) responsible for unifying the rules in the form of ISO 9000/9002.
Patents and brands
Libya is a member of the WIPO Convention (convention instituting the World Intellectual Property Organisation). It is also a signatory to the Paris convention on industrial property, as well as the Berne convention on the protection of literary and artistic works.
Texts currently applying to patents/brands
||Date entered into law
||Period of validity
law n° 8 of 1959 on patents and on industrial designs and models.
Protection is for a period of 15 years from the date of registration. It can be renewed once for a period of 5 years. Payment is made by annual increments.
Paris convention on industrial property
10 years from registration.
There is a period of 3 months from the date of registration during which anyone may contest the request for protection. This may be renewed every 10 years.
Law number 7 of 1984 based on law number 9 of 1968 on copyright protection.
Protection is valid for the lifetime of the author plus a period of 50 years.
Last modified in
2006 - ongoing update
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