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Egypt needs to focus on Asian investments and trade relations

The ASEAN-Egyptian Business Association hosted discussions on the importance of economic ties between Southeast Asian Nations and Egypt.

“Asian nations cannot be impressed by stories or lies, but on the other hand, their economic proposals come without political conditions and restrictions, unlike those of the West,” Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Egypt Business Association (AEBA) Ashraf Mohamed Naguib explained during the “Doing Business with ASEAN”-conference last week.

Stressing on the importance of building strong ties with Southeast Asian Nations, the conference hosted experts in various sectors related to trade and investment, questioning them about new trends in the Egyptian-ASEAN economic relations, the realities of doing business in Egypt and the opportunities for the private sector partnerships.

Chairman of the Egyptian ASEAN Business Association Karim Helal believes that Egypt has neglected Asia as much as it has Africa in the past years, only because it felt comfortable dealing with the West – meanwhile, economic power has moved from the West to the East. He believes it is about time to market Egypt’s advantages confidently and live up to the competition, in order to reach for long-term partnerships with Asia.

The main conclusion of the conference was that Egypt needed to create a bulletproof business-plan for the East, to promote business and export-initiatives, instead of throwing the country’s reserves into imports. The main reasons why experts are optimistic about the two nations’ future are the similarities they share: large, young populations, a wealthy middle-class, and an increasing appetite for consumer goods. Egypt’s future depends on its good relations with the East.

Of course, in order to excel at export-activities, different ministries need to be able to work together and complete each other; foreign investors need to be consulted about local tax and investment laws and most importantly, the infrastructure and logistics of Egypt need to be revised and radically enhanced. Managing Director of logistics company PIL Urs Moll gave an example of how to look at the problem: “Egyptian ports, for example, are in a very good state, but we have too many of them. Ship operators want efficient ports, so a few, well-planned ports will be just fine.”

Naguib concluded the conference by stating that Egypt had been suffering from economic problems even before the January 25th Revolution, and that investments from and contacts to Asia could help overcome whatever turmoil is ahead.

Currently, there are about 1,300 Chinese companies in Egypt.