The United Kingdom’s (UK) Trade Envoy to Egypt, Sir Jeffery Donaldson, believes his country will reach trade agreement with Egypt that will enter into force by 31 December 2020.
He said that he is confident that the UK and Egypt will establish a trade relationship by next January, as they will continue to build on the successful bilateral ties.
He noted that the new trade agreement will not see major differences from the existing association agreement between the European Union (EU) and Egypt.
“But of course, we will seek to refine the agreement over time to meet the needs of companies in their respective countries, so that we can enhance trade,” Donaldson said during his speech at the “Egypt’s Green Economy” programme on Thursday.
The week-long event was organised by the British Egyptian Business Association (BEBA) and the Egyptian-British Chamber of Commerce (EBCC).
The British envoy stressed that the UK seeks to increase its trade exchange with Egypt, explaining that the UK sees Egypt as a growing market that can act as a gateway to Africa.
“We see Egypt as a country that is investing in its infrastructure, and then its most important asset, which is its human capital. We want to work with Egypt, in developing its infrastructure, and investing in health and education, developing and growing the green economy in Egypt,” he said.
“That is why we have a very strong trade team, based in Cairo, not only serving the needs of UK companies wanting to trade with Egypt, and to invest in Egypt, but also crucially, setting the strategic direction for our trade policy across Africa. That’s how important Egypt is to us and our future trading relationship,” Donaldson added.
When the UK completes its transition and leaves the EU, it will be keen to expand its trade with countries outside of Europe, as well as of course to continue having a strong trading relationship with the EU itself, he explained.
“But Africa has been identified as a key growth area for the UK, and Egypt is one of the strongest elements in terms of the expansion of trade,” he said, “The current negotiations, leading to a trade agreement between Egypt and UK will, I believe, provide the platform for expanding our trade and for growing the level of UK investment in Egypt.”
The UK’s current investments in Egypt are estimated at $5.5bn.
“We are working on a number of large projects which will significantly expand that level of investment in Egypt. But it is not just the big projects that we’re interested in. We are also interested in small and medium sized enterprises and trading with Egypt, particularly in developing the green economy in agri food for example, engineering, and manufacturing,” Donaldson said.
“I see the Suez Canal economic zone as being of significant geopolitical importance in the entire region. And that’s why I’ve been marketing the zone to UK companies, because I believe if you’re interested in trading in North Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, the Gulf region, or East Africa, then the Suez Canal economic zone is the ideal location for UK companies to base operations for trade around the entire region,” he continued.
“We believe that a prosperous and stable Egypt is essential for the entire region, and not just for Egypt itself. So we want to continue working with the Egyptian government and encouraging more UK businesses in the field of health care and education to become involved in the work,” he said.
“Of course there is oil and gas, the UK continued to be heavily invested in oil and gas. But in my time as trade envoy, I have been keen for the UK to diversify in its trade with Egypt. So I think that we are succeeding in that diversification. We’re seeing more UK investment in retail, more UK investment in manufacturing, more UK investment in the green economy with some very large, renewable energy projects that have UK involvement in each of them. We believe there is scope for even more to be done in this respect,” Donaldson added.
He concluded, “We will continue to prioritise our trade and investment commitments with Egypt, looking towards that new trading relationship.”