ALEXANDRIA: The Confederation of Egyptian European Business Associations (CEBA) formed a division in Alexandria at an inauguration ceremony there on Saturday.
CEBA was formed in 2004 by the British, French, German and Italian Egyptian bilateral business associations. The confederation s office in Alexandria will be its first division outside of Cairo.
The division will support the industrial and trade activities of numerous businesses in Alexandria that have ties to Europe, and the improvement of the city s port is one of the division s priorities. Alexandria is a leading center for port activities, says Hosna Rachid, the new division s chairperson, which will be further developed to attract world-class operators in all port services, investors in export industries and leading shipping and tourism lines.
The division will also act as an intermediary between Alexandrian businesses and their partners. [CEBA Alexandria] has set [as] a prime target the support of Alexandria s existing industries, Hosna Rachid explains, linking them with strategic partners, technology providers, access to export markets and sources of grant aid and lines of credit.
Ministry of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid emphasizes the importance of Alexandria as the gateway between Europe and Egypt, on account of its geographic position and its port. The port stands to gain further from the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, which seeks to establish a free trade area amongst countries bordering the Mediterranean by 2010.
As a first step toward this objective, Egypt signed an Association Agreement with the European Union in 2004, covering technical cooperation in a number of areas. A free trade agreement between Egypt and Turkey was also signed in December.
The E.U. and Egypt are currently negotiating an action plan within the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy, which aims for closer economic integration of Europe s neighboring countries in exchange for economic and political reform commitments.
Austria s Ambassador to Egypt Koretesh Shpalinger, whose country currently holds the E.U. presidency, says that while trade between Egypt and the E.U. grew substantially last year, it is crucial that the rules and regulations on foreign investors become simpler. Egyptian exports to the E.U. increased by 40 percent in 2005, reaching approximately 4 billion euros. Imports from the E.U. were 7 billion euros.
In addition to boosting the volume of trade, Minister Rachid explains that further infrastructure projects – such as the Green Corridor which provides regular agricultural shipments between Italian and Egyptian ports – are necessary to improve commercial ties.
Industrial zones around Alexandria also require efficient links to Europe through state-of-the-art systems. Minister Rachid anticipates that new industrial zones in the vicinity of the city, which may be led and managed by the private sector, will be created with the support of the recently-established General Authority for Industrial Development.
Minister Rachid, who traveled to the Gulf last week, added that businesses there are keen to improve their presence in the Mediterranean through trade with Egypt.
The Danish cartoon controversy was briefly discussed at the conference celebrating the signing. Minister Rachid says that a close relationship between Egypt and the E.U. is not possible without some understanding between the two cultures. While denouncing the violent protests in several Muslim countries, Minister Rachid says that religious issues matter to Egyptians and that rules are necessary to safeguard the relationship between Europeans and Muslims in the future.