Chile aims to discuss inking a free trade agreement with Egypt during 2019 which will increase the trade exchange at least by 20% per year, according to Fernando Zalaquett Sepúlveda, former ambassador of Chile in Egypt.
Sepúlveda added that the trade exchange with Egypt is estimated at $100m, affirming that his country is keen on boosting bilateral relations with Egypt in all levels including the economic, political, and cultural aspects.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Sepúlveda, where he gave a conclusive look of the situation in Egypt as well as an assessment of the bilateral relations, the transcript of which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
Initially, you stayed in Egypt for over three years, so how do you assess bilateral relations during your mandate?
I left my position as Chile’s ambassador to Egypt on 31 January 2019, after staying here on the top of the Chilean mission to Egypt for about three years and four months.
What is your second destination after Egypt?
In February I will assume my position as new ambassador of Chile in Ethiopia. I will also be a representative of Chile to the African Union (AU) because Chile is an observer country in the AU. It will be a very interesting and challenging new professional destination.
The situation in Egypt is safer than some years ago, so it is a good time for tourists to come and visit the country. I also noticed very important economic improvement under the leadership of president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. The country accomplished substantial economic reforms in 2016 which positively affected the country’s economic position.
Are there any new Chilean investments in Egypt?
Actually, we have a very important and big petroleum company which is working in Egypt since 2002. It is our national petroleum company ENAP Sipetrol. It has a joint venture with the Egyptian side. It invests about $400m in five petroleum fields.
On 27 February 2017, the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Tarek El Molla, met representatives from ENAP Sipetrol, where the company affirmed its strong desire to expand investments in Egypt’s Oil and Gas fields during the coming period.
The minister pointed out that they reviewed the government’s economic reform programme and methods of creating an investment-attractive environment, as well as the latest developments in the Egyptian petroleum industry, according to a past statement.
Would you please elaborate about the Chilean investments in Egypt?
There is the Crystal Lagoons company in Egypt which is a leading Chilean company working in Egypt’s real state sector.
Crystal Lagoons, a leading international water innovation company, has opened a regional office in Cairo, highlighting the company’s commitment to Egypt, according to past media reports in 2017, adding “Patented in 190 countries worldwide, Crystal Lagoons is now involved in projects worth over $5bn in Egypt, with a total of 13 contracts signed, and a further 10 at various stages of negotiations in Cairo, the North Coast, Ain Sokhna, and Hurghada.”
We hope new Chilean companies will invest in Egypt. We are working on boosting Chilean investments in Egypt and attracting new companies. last year, we signed a commercial agreement with Egypt to boost investments and bilateral trade.
we are looking forward to starting conversations for inking a free trade agreement with Egypt this year. The free trade agreement is key to promoting our bilateral trade, as Chile has signed about 26 free trade agreements involving about 60 countries.
What is the amount of Chilean trade exchange with Egypt?
It is still modest at about $100m. However, after the expected agreement, it will be boosted by 20% at least.
What about touristic relations?
We are working on improving touristic relations. There are only 200 Chilean tourists visiting Egypt annually, but if we can have direct flights from Cairo to some destinations in south America as São Paulo, Brazil and Buenos Aires, Argentina, the tourists figures will hike.
Would you please elaborate about cultural relations?
We always organise cultural activities like presentations of Chilean writers and artists. Last December, we organised a seminar with the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation (NMEC) to discuss shared experiences in the archaeological field. We have great knowledge sharing in archaeological experience with Egypt. Experts continue this kind of cooperation. I would like to underline that relationship is excellent over all aspects.
Last year, we had our political dialogue. We aim to improve bilateral trade.
We also organised a seminar with the World Bank (WB) in 2016 about the Chilean health reform. Plus, we organised a conference with the National Women’s Council in Egypt, where we hosted a former female minister to exchange experience about human rights in both countries.
We are involved in boosting Chilean investments in Egypt, so we brought a very important public and private delegation in the business sector and held a seminar about business opportunities, and we are also working to establish a joint business council. It was great honour to represent Chili in Egypt.
I think Egypt is a country that has written a universal glory story. There are incredible opportunities in this country. I have received the affection people everywhere.
Who is the new ambassador of Chile in Egypt?
Pablo Arriarán Ahumada who was serving in Argentina, before Egypt. I am sure that he will continue working on achieving an excellent relationship between both countries. We have established our diplomatic relations over 90 years ago in 1929.
During the 1950s, we had a resident ambassador here in Cairo. I think that our relationship is very fruitful and successful, and all the activities are implemented in a spirit of great friendship.
Notably, the Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roberto Ampuero revealed the appointment of Pablo Arriarán Ahumada as new Chilean ambassador of Chile in Egypt, according to Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs in December 2018.
Pablo Arriarán is a public administrator from the University of Chile and a graduate of the Andrés Bello Diplomatic Academy. He has a master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Victoria, in Wellington, New Zealand (1998), as well as a Diploma in International Economic Relations from the Universidad Mayor de Chile (1994).
During his career he has served in the Chilean embassies in Gabon, Kenya, New Zealand, the United States, Ecuador, and Argentina, where he is currently working.
In Chile, he has served in various directorates of the ministry of foreign affairs, among which are cultural affairs, environment, multilateral policy, international and human security, as well as the General Directorate of International Economic Relations in APEC matters. He has been deputy director of personnel and deputy director of ceremonial and protocol.