CAIRO: An Austrian trade mission spent much of this week in Cairo in an effort to promote trade and investment between one of Europe’s powerhouse economies and the Middle East’s most populous nation.
The delegation was headed by Dr Richard Schenz, vice president of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber and co-chairman of the Austrian Chapter. It consisted of representatives from 12 Austrian companies and was visiting Egypt under the auspices of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber.
The group was scheduled to meet Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid but, after a last minute switch, ended up meeting with ministry deputies. They were also scheduled to meet with the Egyptian Austrian Business Council, a group formed three years ago that works fulltime to promote bilateral investment.
The trade mission has been remarkably successful in facilitating trade, though it still has work to do in promoting investment.
Trade “doubled within the last four years, but investment is not so much, Schenz told Daily News Egypt.
The reason for the explosive growth in trade, Schenz explained, was the result of a reorientation in Austria’s trade priorities.
Austria is already top trading partner with eastern European countries like Croatia, Slovenia, and Bulgaria.
“Austria initially focused on east and south Europe after the fall of the iron curtain, but now it’s started expanding its markets, said Schenz.
Schenz, who retired in 2001 as Chairman and CEO of OMV, one of Austria’s leading oil and gas companies, has served with the Austrian Chamber of Commerce for the past 10 years.
Given his perspective and despite negative developments in the global economy, he remains optimistic about the future of Egyptian-Austrian trade relations.
“The trade volume will remain stable, Schenz said. “There is some GDP growth in Egypt.
Schenz said there are a number of keys that he has employed over his years at the council to insure trade and investment growth between Austria and Egypt.
The Egyptian Austrian Business Council has been one critical factor because it is through this forum that partners on both sides can stay apprised of changes in economic conditions and legislative directives that might have an effect of business.
Additionally, the Austrian government has launched a project called the Austrian Soft Loan program which works in the public sector to provide services that will benefit all Egyptians and that might further trade ties between the two countries.
The project, Schenz explained, has a two-year term and is responsible for meting out up to ?50 million for government projects.
All of these efforts led to a 24 percent trade increase between the two countries bringing total annual trade volume to ?476 million.
Schenz admitted that part of this boom has to do with large shipments of oil which, depending on the prices, can inflate trade volume numbers. He did argue, though, that much of the trade was brought about by the work and commitment of partners on both sides.
Schenz also said he believes that the future for trade relations between the two nations is bright.
“Egypt has invested a lot in machinery and has liberalized its economy, he said explaining why he thinks there will be continued interest in investing in the country.
But Schenz also stressed that at the heart of maintaining solid trade partnerships is staying in tune with the partner’s needs.
“We are looking to our global partners, he said, “to see what they want.