Egyptian-French Business, political, military relations thriving

Hagar Omran
10 Min Read

Over the recent years, it has been clear for all that political relations between Egypt and France are thriving through high-level visits, of which the latest was the foreign affairs minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian’s visit for the second time in 2018, on 28 June. Egypt and France have historical and strong relations in all aspects, including political and military, economic, cultural and trade, In the feature below, Daily News Egypt in details examines updates on bilateral relations in all areas of cooperation.

Firms increasing investments, new ones enter the local market

France is one of the top investing countries in Egypt, according to the Central Bank of Egypt, the total net French investment reached about $4.9bn with more than 160 French companies offering 33000 job opportunities operating in the fields of industry, tourism, agriculture, communications, transport, infrastructure, and financial services.

The volume of investment has more than doubled from fiscal year (FY) 2015/2016 to 2016/2017 to reach $535m reflecting the confidence of the French investors in the potential of the Egyptian market and the vast opportunities it offers.

Sources from GAFI said that new French investments include Naval Group to manufacture naval ships in Alexandria shipyard and Groupe SEB strengthens its position in Egypt by signing with its long-standing partner, the Zahran family, an agreement on the merger of small electrical appliances and cookware businesses with a view to reinforcing its local manufacturing base in Egypt to serve the local and export markets, adding that Schneider Electric, leSaffre, Saint Gobain continues expanding and investing in Egypt.

Minister of investment and international cooperation said in June that France is one of the largest investors in Egypt, noting that French investments in Egypt doubled in FY 2017.

Nasr asserted that French investments are characterized by diversity in various sectors, especially in the fields of infrastructure, transportation, industry, communications and information technology, energy, and the development of small and medium enterprises.

She pointed out that since the ratification of the New Investment Law at the end of May 2017, a large number of French companies have been established in Egypt.

Meanwhile, trade exchange with Egypt reached €2.5bn by the end of 2017, €1.9bn, of which are exports from France to Egypt, while €600m are Egyptian exports to France, according to data from Business France mentioning that about 16% of the French exports to Egypt are food products, half of them are grains.

France is the fourth largest exporter to Egypt after Italy, Spain, and Britain. The trade balance between the two countries reflects a large deficit which is not in favour of Egypt. The most important imports are wheat, machinery, machinery, electrical equipment, and medicines, while the main Egyptian exports are natural gas, oil, jet fuel, textile, cotton yarn, petroleum and its products, and ready-made garments.

In 2005, Egypt exported the first shipment of natural liquefied natural gas to France. Egyptian gas represents 10% of France’s gas imports.

Political views are not totally matching. However, there are many points of agreement

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian paid Egypt two visits in the first half of 2018, which is considered a clear sign of boosting political cooperation, plus Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’ visit to Paris in October and the upcoming French president Emanuel Macron planned visit to Egypt this year.

Le Drian visited Egypt on 28 June for a meeting with Egyptian president, they discussed regional issues, on which France and Egypt share many points of agreement, while the French foreign affairs minister met the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, on April and he held other meetings with the Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul Gheit, they discussed regional issues, including the Syrian and Libyan crises, as well as the Middle East peace process. 

April’s visit aim was to shed light on progress made by UN Special Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame in the Libyan crisis, with the aim of involving all Libyan parties and holding elections as soon as possible, the statement read. 

Both countries reaffirmed their determination to continue to boost cooperation on counter-terrorism, in light of the international conference to combat the financing of Daesh and al-Qaeda, which was held in Paris on 26 April.

President Al-Sisi discussed boosting the Egyptian-French relations, especially at the cultural level, during a meeting with French Foreign Affairs Minister in June. According to a statement issued by the presidency spokesperson Bassam Rady, Al-Sisi welcomed and appreciated Le Drian suggestions regarding enhancing the two countries efforts regarding the huge cultural projects in Egypt, including the Grand Egyptian Museum, which expected to be opened to the public soon

On the same context, Rakha Ahmed, the former assistant of foreign minister, said that relationships with France are very well developing, during the last four years, noting that the two countries are closely cooperating since François Hollande’ mandate, and are continuing their collaboration in the current period.

France announced the French initiative for the Israeli-Palestinian political process, which was considered a good effort. However, Israel does not respond to international solutions expect if they are supported by the US government, said Ahmed, noting, “any global efforts to end the conflict are appreciated even if they led to nothing as that kind of initiatives emphasizes continuing the Palestinian issue.”

Ahmed noted that France contributed with other global partners in eliminating sites of the Islamic State, the militant group, adding, “Egypt and France are sharing the same interest in Libya issues. Egypt sensitivity deals with   Libya as a national security issue, while France pays attention to Libya as it is the south Mediterranean neighbour and they are kind of afraid of arms trafficking and illegal migration.”

Ahmed mentioned that France is one of the European Union’s members and it has the same criticism for human rights and freedom of opinion in Egypt. However, the joint benefits are stronger than difference points.

Military cooperation outlook is very positive

Egypt aspires to develop military ties with France in the upcoming period, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi told French Minister of Defence Florence Parly, during a meeting in Cairo on 17 December.

Egypt has made several purchases of French military hardware in recent years, a Gowind 2500 Corvette naval vessel, which arrived in October is one of the deals.

On 3 July, Egyptian Defence Minister Mohamed Zaki met with his French counterpart Florence Devouard on his first official visit to the European country. The meeting, attended by a host of senior French military commanders, tackled means of boosting military cooperation between the two countries in the fields of defence, manufacturing, training, and exchange of expertise.

They also discussed issues of mutual concern, topped by counter-terrorism efforts.

The former assistant of foreign affairs minister said that the outlook of the bilateral cooperation in the military field is very positive.

In 2015, Egypt signed a deal to acquire 24 Dassault Rafale fighter jets from France, of which it has received 11.  

Great potential to boost bilateral tourism

Ahmed emphasized the great potential for cooperating in the tourism sector, 

Egypt and France are expected to discuss possibilities of cooperation in the tourism sector, especially that it is an important area with a significant part of the national income for the two countries.

There are many proposals to promote tourism between the two countries including encouraging participation in exhibitions, festivals, and tourist events held in both countries, encourage visits by officials in tourism sector between the two countries, encourage travel, and tourism agencies in both countries to organize bilateral tourism programmes.

Boosting tourism proposals also include French side to offer numbers of annual tourism scholarships benefiting the French side experiences and advantaging France’s membership at the EU.

Both countries are suggested to organize bilateral visits for officials, journalists and media to closely recognize sightseeing of both countries.

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