Egypt’s Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Asian Affairs Tarek Al-Wasimi chaired a meeting of ambassadors from Asian countries, on Monday, in Cairo to discuss strengthening economic relations between Egypt and Asia.
The meeting took place in the presence of: Walid Gamal El-Din, Executive Director of the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone); Tarek Hashem, Assistant Director-General for Investor Relations Department at the SCZone; and Sherine El-Shahawi, Director of Energy and Transport Unit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Al-Wasimi began the meeting by highlighting the importance of strengthening economic relations between Egypt and Asian countries on the investment side. He said that this would take place through Asian companies taking advantage of investment opportunities in the SCZone. They would be able to make use of the storage, manufacturing, and re-exporting of their products to the world, as part of free trade agreements between Egypt and other countries.
For his part, Gamal El-Din reviewed the 461 sqm economic zone’s activities, noting that it consists of four economic zones along the Suez Canal. The SCZone additionally has six ports, including one for each of the four economic zones in addition to the ports of Al-Tour and El-Arish.
He said that one of the SCZone’s most important objectives is to localise some industries in Egypt and increase the country’s exports abroad.
He also said that the free trade and trade facilitation agreements between Egypt and Arab, African and European countries, as well as the US, represent an incentive for companies to consider the economic zone as an export platform. This is in addition to the possibility of benefiting from the huge domestic market in Egypt.
Gamal El-Din added that there are other incentives for investment in the SCZone, such as exemption from value added tax (VAT) and customs tariffs, and the provision of logistics services. Another major incentive is the strength of the Egyptian economy, which has not been negatively affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as the ease of handling containers in the ports of the economic zone.
El-Shahawi discussed the latest developments in the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, which was established on Egypt’s initiative, and which includes seven countries. The forum aims to employ energy as a tool for regional cooperation between East Mediterranean countries, whether they are producers, importers, or used for the transit of natural gas.
She added that Egypt has hosted four ministerial meetings of the forum, the last of which was held in September. During the last meeting, the charter to establish the forum as a regional non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Egypt was signed, with the headquarters agreement to be signed soon.
El-Shahawi noted that it is hoped the charter will enter into force early next year if it is ratified by five of the seven member states of the forum.