CAIRO: Following an official visit to France last week, Egypt has announced it will foster economic ties with the European country through new agreements in a variety of business sectors.
Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid met with French Minister of Finance Christine Lagarde and discussed means to boost economic and industrial cooperation between the two countries. At the top of the list will be cooperation in the fabric industry as Egypt strives to benefit from France’s technological advancement in this field.
Egypt plans on becoming France’s international fashion hub in Africa.
“We plan on increasing cooperation with France to boost economic and industrial transactions in the African region through Egypt as a trade center for all commodities, Rachid said.
President Hosni Mubarak’s first official meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy also dealt with Sarkozy’s “Mediterranean Union (MU) initiative that should encourage trade between countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.
Speaking after a meeting with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon in Paris, Mubarak said the two countries are “completely in agreement on certain projects to be signed when Fillon visits Cairo in the future. Mubarak placed emphasis on the industrial, satellite and military sectors.
“Egypt is very enthusiastic about the MU initiative, which is considered a real opportunity for Egypt to increase cooperation with Europe, Rachid said, “we hope that this will soon enable Egypt to establish an economic union with all European Union members.
Egypt is keen on increasing its trade transactions with France, which are worth 634.6 million euros – with Egypt’s exports comprising 234.8 million euros and French imports 399.8 million euros – in the period between January and April 2007.
“France and Egypt’s relationship has always been a unique one, and there is no doubt that this good nature will continue with the new president, Ahmed Mokhtar, an economic analyst at the Franco-Egyptian Business Association, told Daily News Egypt. “However, the doubt lies in the MU, especially since many similar attempts have failed in the past.
A similar initiative, the “Barcelona Process, was proposed in 1995, but meager steps have been taken to actually implement it. This Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Initiative was expected to bring economic and political change in the Mediterranean region. The initiative included the creation of the Euro-Mediterranean Economic Area for the free trade of industrial goods and services by the year 2010. The initiative was also meant to encourage political stability and transparency in countries wanting to attract foreign investors.
“If the MU’s destiny is to be different than the Barcelona Process, then Egypt has to ensure that concrete steps are taken immediately. If this plan is implemented, the entire African region will benefit greatly, Mokhtar said.
France is Egypt’s fifth largest national supplier with investments reaching LE 5.94 billion in March 2007 in 134 projects, as well as $4.8 million spent on 13 projects in the Free Zones Area. French investments in Egypt are mainly in the food, chemicals, minerals, banking, financial consultancy, hospitals, automotives and tourism sectors.
French investments have contributed to the completion of significant Egyptian projects such as Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the metro, the NileSat and ArabSat satellites as well as the Cairo Airport Radar.