Egypt, UAE agree to forge stronger economic ties
CAIRO - Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to forge stronger economic, trade and investment cooperation after UAE Economy Minister Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansoori’s visit to Cairo. The pledge for greater Egyptian-UAE cooperation comes in a broader move to greater Arab economic integration.
“Egypt is well-placed to play a role in formulating a comprehensive strategy for economic cooperation among Arab states,” Mansoori said. “At the bilateral level, Cairo and Abu Dhabi need to locate industrial capacities on the ground to move ahead with satisfying the needs of their peoples.”
Mansoori was in Cairo for a March 17 meeting of the Joint Egyptian-UAE Economic Committee, in which the Egyptian and UAE governments reflected on bilateral economic cooperation and plan for future cooperation. It was also a chance for the private sector of both countries to explore further business opportunities.
Trade and investment relations between Egypt and the UAE made unprecedented strides in the past three years, including a 20% increase in trade, Egyptian Trade and Industry Minister Tarek Kabil said.
The UAE became the world’s largest importer of Egyptian goods in 2017, buying $2.5 billion worth of its products. The UAE also invested $6.2 billion in Egypt in 2017. There are nearly 900 UAE companies operating in Egypt and UAE nationals provide vital investment in several Egyptian sectors, notably real estate.
Egyptians invested $826 million in the UAE and many Egyptians work in the UAE.
During the economic committee meeting, Kabil called for removing obstacles to economic cooperation with the UAE. He said Cairo had taken measures to encourage UAE businessmen to invest in Egypt, including facilitating industrial licensing measures and establishing an industrial investment map of 4,800 potential industrial projects for investment.
Cairo and Abu Dhabi are seeking to promote strategic political and security cooperation. They view their relations from a strategic point, not only on economic interests, said Ahmed al-Wakil, the head of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce, which organised a meeting of Egyptian and UAE businessmen.
“Arab countries can only survive if they join hands economically,” Wakil said. “The presence of will on the part of both states opens the door for unlimited cooperation opportunities.”
This political will was highlighted by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed during a news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
He confirmed that the two countries were facing the same challenges and aggression from Iran and Turkey and asserted Egyptian strength and stability following the “Arab spring” and the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi.
The UAE, together with Saudi Arabia, offered billions of dollars in aid to Egypt following Morsi’s ouster in 2013. Apart from economic support, Abu Dhabi also offered unlimited political support to Cairo.
Both countries agreed to enhance trade and investment cooperation, including custom duty exemptions and facilitating investment.
“The current environment is fully conducive to the transition of a new phase of cooperation and partnership between the brotherly countries, realising our future aspiration for prosperity,” Mansoori said.
There were talks on how Egyptian-UAE cooperation could activate greater Arab economic cooperation across the region.
“The two countries also have major cooperation chances by working in doing business in other Arab countries like Iraq where massive war-torn areas need reconstruction,” said Egyptian economist Fakhri al-Fiqqi. “This will ensure that cooperation between Egypt and the UAE will morph into a regional activity.”
However, success in securing greater regional economic cooperation will require extra effort from Egypt and the UAE, including moves to reduce red tape.
“These challenges include slow procedures, especially in Egypt where administrative procedures related to investments continue to take a long time,” said Mohamed Abou el-Enein, an Egyptian tycoon who attended the March 17 meeting. “There is an urgent need for overhauling administrative regulations to encourage UAE investors to come here.”