One U.S. metals trader is taking a close look at the region of Israel where the infamous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were situated.
According to the biblical story, God destroyed those cities for their wickedness and one of the characters, Lot's wife, was turned into a pillar of
salt.A new project to dredge salt from the nearby Dead Sea and refine it into magnesium oxide is under way. The end product, magnesium metal, is going to be
marketed in the United States by Midland Export Ltd. in Bensalem, Pa.
"Israel is attempting to be one of the bigger magnesium exporters. We plan to introduce Israeli magnesium to the United States within the next year," said Andrew Lubin, Midland president.
The domestic price for magnesium could tighten in the months ahead, Mr. Lubin said. U.S. producers have filed a petition against China, Russia and Ukraine for product dumping.
The U.S. Department of Commerce is expected to announce next week whether it will initiate a case, a source said. Such a case could result in punitive tariffs against those countries.
Magnesium, a lightweight and durable metal, is widely used for critical components in the automotive and aerospace industries.
"This is a major research and development project," said Megen Altuvia, assistant economic minister at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. "We hope to supply both our domestic industries and the world market."
Dead Sea Magnesium Works in Sdom, which produces the magnesium, is a division of Imperial Chemical Industries and is currently producing potash and fertilizer.
Polished diamonds; citrus and other fruits; textiles and clothing; processed food; fertilizer and chemical products; military hardware; electronics.
Potential Growth Exports
Semiprecious and precious stones; transportation equipment; engines and motors; agricultural equipment; telecommunications and scientific equipment; fruits; chemicals.
Principal Foreign Markets
United States, European Union, Switzerland, Japan, South Africa, Canada, Hong Kong.
Export Programs/Investment Incentives
Under the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area, most customs duties and non-tariff
barriers will be eliminated by 1995. U.S. businesses may receive financial services from the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
Market rate: US$1=2.8987 shekels.
American Israel Bank, Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Finance and Trade Bank, Israel Discount Bank, United Mizrahi Bank.
Labor force is 1.6 million workers. Public services 29.5 percent, commerce 14.5 percent, finance 10 percent, construction 4.9 percent, others 41.1 percent.
Hebrew is the official language. Arabic is the official language of the Arab minority. English is widely spoken in the business community.
Arid in desert areas. Temperate along the coast. The average Fahrenheit temperature in Tel Aviv ranges from 57 degrees in January to 83 degrees in August.
GMT +2, EST +7.
Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv is the primary conduit for air cargo. Haifa and Ashdod are the principal maritime ports.
Where to Stay During Buying Trips
In Tel Aviv: Carlton, Hilton, Moriah, Ramada, Sheraton.
Official (Bank) Holidays
1994: April 7, 14; May 16; Sept. 6, 15, 20, 27.
Government: Sun.-Fri., 8 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. Banks: Sun.-Fri., 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Commerce and industry: Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
U.S. travelers must carry a passport. A visa is required for stays in excess of three months. Before you go, contact the Office of the Embassy of Israel, 3514 International Drive N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008. (202) 364-5500.
Military equipment, rough diamonds, oil, chemicals, machinery, iron and steel, cereals, textiles, vehicles, ships, aircraft.
Principal Imports From the U.S.
Aircraft and associated equipment; pearls; telecommunications equipment; motor cars; automated data processing machines; analytical instruments.
Potential Growth Imports From the U.S.
Computers and peripherals; telecommunications; process controls; metalworking equipment; minerals; chemicals; plastics; industrial equipment.
Barriers to Trade
In addition to duties, a value-added tax, or VAT, of 18 percent is levied on most transactions. There is also a 1.5 percent port fee on all imports. Israel and the United States have a bilateral investment treaty.
Principal Foreign Suppliers
United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg.
Population is 4.8 million, growing at 4.0 percent annually, with an estimated per capita gross domestic product of $12,000.
Food processing, diamond cutting and polishing, textiles, clothing, chemicals, metal products, military equipment, transportation equipment, electronics, potash mining.
Agriculture accounts for 3 percent of GDP. Israel is largely self-sufficient in food productions, except for grains. Principal products: citrus and other fruits, vegetables, cotton, livestock.
There are more than 50 domestic airports. Rail network serves Haifa and Ashdod on the Mediterranean Sea, and Eilat on the Red Sea. There is passenger rail service in and between Nahariya, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
There are free-trade zones in Haifa and Eilat. Goods may enter exempt from customs duties and other taxes. However, companies in these zones must export 90 percent of their products.
Inflation rose 12 percent last year, up from 11.8 percent in 1992.
Economic Growth Outlook
The Israeli economy's growth slowed last year. GDP growth dipped from 6.4 percent in 1992 to 4.5 percent this year. The economy is on pace to continue at 4.5 percent this year and growth should reach 5 percent in 1995, according to Trade Horizons, a forecasting service in New York.