CAIRO: Businesspeople looking for investment opportunities in Australia, trying to locate the most suitable Australian exporters, or simply exploring the option of doing business with the country, gathered together yesterday for a seminar at the Egyptian Businessmen Association (EBA).
During the morning event, about 100 representatives of the country s different trade and industrial sectors listened to Australian Ambassador Robert Bowker and Senior Trade Commissioner Aminur Rahman as they explained the prospects for joint trade between the two countries.
We are shifting from something which is essentially a commercial transaction as the basic model into something which is a genuine partnership for both sides, says Bowker.
He explained that the relationship between the two countries is now moving from a basic trade of meat and wheat toward a more sophisticated type.
The really exciting area for growth I believe is in the importation of Australian raw materials and the use of Egyptian raw materials as well, combining those with Egyptian gas and exporting a finished product into markets in Europe, the United States and also in Africa, explains Bowker.
These combined products would incorporate Egyptian and Australian labor, skills and technology, the ambassador adds. A magnesium refining plant is now under construction in Ain El Sokhna, he notes, which will incorporate Australian and Egyptian input; aluminum is also another area of cooperation.
On another level, there has been an expansion of partnership venues corresponding to the local changes in society and economy. Sectors like telecommunications, services, education, construction and processed foods are now open for Australian input.
Australia is matching this shift in Egypt s requirements, notes Bowker. I have seen significant changes in Egypt that are now being reflected in changes in the way in which Australia and Egypt deal with each other.
With Fulvio Fabreschi, general manager of Global Trade and Investment Services, present, Bowker and Rahman explained the procedure through which interested businesspersons can communicate and initiate cooperation with their Aussie counterparts.
Fabreschi, whose corporation sells itself as an Australian company with a local presence, explained the role Australia would play in boosting investment portfolios. For starters, the more diverse the stock markets people invest in, the lower the risk of financial losses. Also by explaining the stability of the Australian economy and its high growth rates, Fabreschi noted the safety of investment in Australia. Rahman noted that Austrade now offers free-of-charge video conferencing to facilitate intercontinental communication and to save local businesspeople the time and effort spent on research, Austrade helps Egyptian traders locate the most appropriate Australian exporter.
Pointing to the studies his office has made on different sectors in the country, Rahman assured attendees that his staff would never provide an Egyptian importer with a product they know wouldn’t work in the local market.
There was no information, however, on the prospects of exporting Egyptian products to Australia. Rahman said this falls into the domain of the Egyptian counterpart to Austrade.
On the same note, EBA officials announced plans to send a trade mission to Australia in which Egyptian businessmen would explore various investment, exporting and importing opportunities first hand; the trip is scheduled for May 2007.
Rahman and Bowker continuously stressed the importance of the mutual benefits of both sides. Education has witnessed great progress in the area, where the number of Egyptian students living in Australia has dramatically increased over the past few years to reach a figure slightly less than 400, while the Australian population stands at 20.2 million. Bowker said that he expects the number of Egyptians studying in Australia on scholarships to increase.
The seminar coincides with an ongoing plan to foster relations between Egypt and Australia in its various cultural and societal aspects. Several events in Egypt promoting Australian cuisine, arts and education have already proven successful over the past few months. An Australian film festival is in the works, alongside another education exhibition and food and beverage testers.
Mustafa Ibrahim, managing director of Keendex International (Egypt) and an Egyptian who has done business in Australia for years and has recently moved back to Egypt, pointed to a lack of information on both sides. He said the seminar and other similar efforts would help in this area.
Ibrahim noted how false assumptions about trading with Australia have hindered businessmen from initiating contact or researching possibilities. No one knows, for example, Ibrahim continued, that there is a ship from Egypt to Australia that takes 17 to19 days.
Flights between the Middle East and Australia are increasing as well; one Arabian Gulf-based airline is aiming to reach 84 flights to Australia per week. Direct flights between Egypt and Australia, however, leave a lot to be desired.
Ibrahim explained that with the boom in communication tools, the distance is no longer an issue.