CAIRO: Egypt plans to boost internal trade to LE 25 billion in the next five years, from its current level of LE 2.5 billion per year, Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid said Wednesday.
Egypt is back on track to continue with reforms, he said at the Euromoney conference, responding to uncertainty as to how the slowdown in the global economy might affect plans to open Egypt up to the world.
“The stimulus package, he said, “the different measures that have been taken. have given enough momentum for the reform to continue.
Critical to that reform, said Rachid, was increasing trade within Egypt.
Facilitating domestic trade, he said, “would allow our consumers to have the benefit of a real market economy.
While the goal to increase internal trade to LE 25 billion in the next five years is an ambitious plan, it comes after several years that have seen Egypt burst onto the international trade scene.
The focus on internal trade, said Rachid, will also help take care of one of Egypt’s most persistent problems: unemployment.
“Internal trade is one of the most efficient markets in terms of labor, he said.
Rachid then turned his attention to the export market, touting progress already made and vowing to expand Egypt’s trade reach in the world.
Between 2004 and 2008, he said, exports increased from LE 44 billion to LE 95 billion. He said the government is following a program to boost Egypt’s exports to LE 200 billion in the next four years.
This increase would generate LE 60 billion in investments and around 200,000 new jobs.
Rachid said his vision for increasing exports still holds up despite the slowdown.
He said Egypt is focusing on the top 100 retailers in the world in order to bring their investment to Egypt.
The minister singled out Asia as an area where Egypt hopes it can strengthen trade relations. He also said Egypt continues to vigorously pursue a free trade agreement with Russia, though that may not be finalized for some time.
Lastly, the minister talked about trade with Africa, a subject he is fond of mentioning. Egypt is rigorously engaged with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). He said he hoped that COMESA, along with other trade unions like the Southern African Development Community, could strengthen the trade standing of Africa as a whole.
It has long been the belief of many in Africa that establishing a substantial African trade bloc is the only way for developing countries like Egypt to compete with the likes of the United States or the European Union.
While most speakers at Euromoney focused on the economic crisis, Rachid seemed more eager to build a bridge between the reform commitments of 2004 and Egypt post-crisis.
“The government is extremely committed to the 2004 reform program, he said.