The age of protection ended, whereby ministerial decree No. 43/2016 for curbing imports existed only due to the presence of certain circumstances and crises as a result of the lack of foreign currency; additionally, the economic reform now is improving the economy and it is a good time to consider the whole importing system, according to Minister of Trade and Industry Amr Nassar.
In December 2015, former Minister of Trade and Industry Tarek Kabil issued a decree that was published in Egypt’s official gazette, Al-Waqa’ia Al-Masriya, which said only foreign factories registered in the record of the General Organisation for Export and Import Control (GOEIC) will be allowed to export to Egypt. This was put into effect in March 2016 to regulate the process of importing goods into Egypt, as a means of encouraging local production to reduce foreign competition and improve the foreign exchange reserve.
Regarding Egypt’s automotive strategy, Nassar said that this issue is very complicated, and the ministry is going to complete a final comprehensive vision of the automotive industry strategy.
The ministry is trying to complete the strategy in its final form before the next parliamentary session in October. Nevertheless, the strategy has no relationship with Egypt’s trade agreement with Europe or the reduction of customs on European cars.
During his first press conference, Nassar said that no country can ban imports totally or manufacture everything, but it can improve the importing system through defining products that can be imported to serve the state economic development.
Nassar gave an example that China is one of the largest countries where Egypt imports products that the country does not need, such as toys, whereas the country can import goods and products that it really needs.
“We need to identify the export sectors with good experience. We have already identified the products and we have identified the markets that could be opened in the coming period—particularly the African markets, which need Egypt’s assistance in the manufacturing process,” Nassar noted.
He pointed out that industrial specialisation is one of the axes that the ministry is focusing on during the coming period, whereby the value-added and competitive industries that have economic feasibility will be supported.
Nassar explained that the ministry’s strategy during the coming period is based on a number of axes, the most important of which is the focus on labour-intensive industries, manufacturing industries, and small, medium, and micro industries.
Furthermore, he stressed that the ministry has worked on identifying industries that have a competitive advantage to be promoted and supported.
Nassar added, “Labour-intensive industries have great opportunities during the current period, as well as manufacturing industries, as it is not possible to export raw products without adding value to them. Moreover, it is important to support small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in reducing unemployment. If we can produce 10m small products, we will have relieved a great burden on the state.”
Moreover, the minister pointed out the existence of many unused productive capacities within the industrial sector, saying, “We have untapped productive capacity estimated at 40% in the industrial community, and there are useless industries.”
He commented that the issue of troubled factories is due to problems of estimating their feasibility studies and calculating their cost and capabilities.
Regarding the draft new customs law, he said that the ministry is seeking maximum consensus. “The Federation of Egyptian Industries has made several observations and proposals, and we are coordinating with the Ministry of Finance to produce the best final formula to create a balance between investor rights and state rights,” he added.
He elaborated that within two months, a comprehensive study on the productive capacities of the factories will be completed to determine problems facing manufactures, adding, “If the matter requires any change of laws or legislation, we coordinate with the finance and investment ministries to solve problems facing these factories.”