Egypt announces Chinese cooperation on nuclear front

Abdel-Rahman Hussein
5 Min Read

But will the agreement materialize, analysts ask

CAIRO: Following a week of speculation that Egypt was readying to make a major foreign policy shift away from the US and towards Asian-European powers, President Mubarak and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao announced the two countries would work together to boost Egypt’s nuclear capabilities.

The president was in China after visiting Russia, where a similar project had been expected last week. Mubarak and 47 other African leaders had been in Beijing for a two-day meeting yesterday aimed at pumping up trade between the emerging superpower and the world s poorest continent. No details were immediately available on how Egypt and China planned to cooperate, according to Xinhua, the Chinese national news agency.

But Hassan Abu Taleb, head of the International Unit at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, is skeptical that a detailed framework for the cooperation hasn’t been agreed upon.

These agreements or declarations can lead to further negotiations, Abu Taleb told The Daily Star Egypt, but they don t necessarily mean anything specific has been agreed upon. Only when there is a detailed agreement with a timetable can you consider that there is progress on the matter.

Abu Taleb emphasized similarities with the Egyptian delegation s trip to Russia. There was a lot of talk concerning nuclear cooperation on the Russia trip but talks fell through on one or two points, he said so they signed off with an agreement to resume talks in three or four months.

The analyst also said previous similar statements regarding high-level technical cooperation have not necessarily produced tangible results.

He told The Daily Star Egypt that Egypt has had an agreement with the United States dating back to 1974 set by then presidents Richard Nixon and Anwar Al Sadat to cooperate on nuclear matters and nothing has happened since.

The announcement also came on the heels of an expected boost in Egypt-China economic ties.

Over the next few years, Egypt is looking to boost foreign investment to $10 billion annually, up from about $6 billion this year.

And with its growing economic clout, China is going to play an increasing part in this plan, analysts say.

Last year, trade between Egypt and China jumped 36 percent to $2.15 billion, with China enjoying a surplus chunk of $1.7 billion.

Energy resources are important for China, but that s not all. China is a big country, but at the same time, we do need the cooperation of other countries, says Ming Jian Chen, a counselor with the Chinese embassy in Cairo.

She adds that China imports large amounts of Egyptian made chemicals, marble and textiles.

According to Chen, trade between the two countries was up around 40 percent over this time last year. By the end of the year, bilateral trade is expected to swell to just under $3 billion.

I think we have very good cooperation with Egypt, she says.

Samir Radwan, managing director of the Economic Research Forum in Cairo, says that relying too heavily on Chinese investment and technology could have serious consequences for the Egyptian economy.

The downside, of course, is that Egyptians will not benefit [and] won t adopt any new technology, Radwan tells The Daily Star Egypt.

And that could turn Egypt into a dependent, economic hinterland, some say.

But energy needs may override such considerations for the moment.

Last month, Gamal Mubarak, deputy chairman of the National Democratic Party, suggested it was in Egypt’s long-term interests to turn to nuclear technology for energy supplies.

“In 12 years we will need three times as much energy. We must work with nuclear reactors, Abdel Hakim Kandil, professor of nuclear and inorganic chemistry and director of the faculty and leadership development program at Helwan University, told The Daily Star Egypt earlier this week.

He explains that Egypt’s energy needs are growing at a quickening rate and that with only 21 million kilowatts of energy produced, demand could outpace supply.

“We are planning to build four reactors … one in Dabaa followed by three more later on, he added.

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