CAIRO: Egyptian traders received with joy and relief the news that Chinese imports entering the local market will have to meet standards set by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid delegated a supervisory committee to ensure that the quality of Chinese products is on a par with WTO standards, and only those will be allowed to enter the Egyptian market. According to WTO rules, importers will also have the right to file official complaints against imported goods they feel do not comply with these standards.
The move is meant to protect consumers from the poor quality of some Chinese products as well as protect local traders, giving them a fair chance at competing in the market.
“This will enable Egyptian products to compete against a viable product that conforms to standards and does not degrade the price of the Egyptian product. [This] will improve the quality of products sold in Egypt, hence protecting the Egyptian consumer, Mohamed El-Masry, chairman of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce, told Al-Ahram daily newspaper. “When Egypt first started importing Chinese products, we were impressed with the quality and the [cheaper] prices, but now we buy toys that stop working after two days and clothes that lose their color after one wash, Mohsen Ahmed, a father of two, told Daily News Egypt as he was shopping in Khan El-Khalili.
During the past few years, Egyptians have grown accustomed to choosing Chinese goods because of their low prices, mostly items such as toys, accessories, home appliances or spare parts.
According to the Chinese embassy, Chinese Ambassador to Egypt Wu Sike said trade between Egypt and China has been growing vigorously for several years. Bilateral trade reached some $2.1 billion in 2005, up by 36 percent from 2004. The trade volume in the first eight months of 2006 jumped by some 47.6 percent to reach nearly $2 billion, Wu said.
The “Chinese craze boomed when Egyptian consumers started buying large China-made commodities such as cars assembled both in China and Egypt. Chery Automobile, China’s largest car manufacturer, entered the Egyptian market last year when it partnered with Daewoo Motors Egypt in November 2005. Less than a year later, the company rolled out two Speranza models, which became an instant hit.
Other Chinese carmakers – Geely Automobile, Hafei Motor and Brilliance China Automobile – also made a successful foray into the Egyptian market recently.
“Egyptian-Sino relations are of great importance to Egypt and Rachid has stressed the importance of this relationship. However, at the end of the day, the Egyptian consumer and producer is our main concern, Ali Soliman, member of the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, told Daily News Egypt.
Traders at Khan El-Khalili told the Daily News Egypt that news of Chinese imports being subject to stricter regulations is a comfort to them, especially as the Holy month of Ramadan approaches and with it the season for fawanees (lanterns) begins.
“For the past four to five years, we have been selling the Chinese fanoos, which plays music, for LE 4-LE 5. This has affected the Egyptian fanoos industry because we could not compete with these prices. I hope that rules are made to restrict importing goods we can make ourselves, Mohamed Abdel-Shafi, a souvenir shop owner said.
While international laws and agreements may make it difficult to restrict the importation of certain goods, the quality and price of these goods can be regulated for everyone’s benefit, Soliman said.