By Islam Serour
Despite the looming uncertainty shrouding Egypt’s relations with Iran, the magnitude of Egyptian-Iranian trade exchange has quadrupled during the past four months, according to Hamid Safdl, Iranian Assistant Minister of Industry, Trade and Mining.
The Iranian Minister, told Fars News last Saturday that trade exchange between Egypt and Iran has increased four times during the past four months, reaching $51m compared to $10m last year.
The Iranian official also added that trade exchange with 77 counties has increased by 100 percent, relatively fell with 48 other counties, and shrunk by 100 percent with 12 others.
Egyptian former Chargé d’affaires in Iran, Ambassador Dr Mahmoud Farag, told the Daily News Egypt that economic and trade relations continued under Mubarak, however relations were kept to a very narrow limit.
“Egypt built five sugar factories in Iran as a part of a debt settlement agreement. However, these factories were the only direct transactions, as most of the import-export transitions have been conducted indirectly via Dubai in order to avoid any complications by security officials,” Dr Farag added.
Before the Egyptian revolution, Egyptian-Iranian relations have been characterised by great deal of ambiguity. From time to time statements came out stressing the importance of improving the relations between Egypt and Iran and boosting economic relations. However, such statements never translated to action.
After the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, many observers speculated an improvement in the relations between the two countries, which manifested in the statement of former Foreign Minister Nabil El-Arabi, which highlighted the importance of reviving the Egyptian-Iranian relations and promoting the level of diplomatic representation in the two countries. These calls were, however, muted when El-Arabi moved to head the Arab league.
“The Egyptian-Iranian economic relations depend primarily on political factors. Political impediments, especially ones concerning the security of Arab Gulf States are responsible for the state of stagnation of the Egyptian-Iranian relations in general, and their mutual economic relations in particular”, said Dr Emad Gad, the Head of International Relations unit at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS).
Dr Gad stated that the increase in the volume of trade exchange between the two countries is insignificant, as the $51million that amount for trade exchange are not noteworthy. He added that increasing trade relation could boost Egyptian-Iranian relations on the political sphere.
Dr Farag concurred with Dr Gad, noting that “given the political complication imposed by the Iranian behaviour in the Gulf and the continuing violence in Syria, any initiative to improve the economic relations between the two countries is doomed due to the interference of security apparatuses”
Dr Gad further explained that“the recent increase in the volume of mutual trade is not that significant by any standard to boost the Egyptian-Iranian economic relations, and that the political and security factors will continue restrict economic relations to a very limited scope.”