By Inaam El Adawy
The Federation of the Chambers of Commerce (FEDCOC) has adopted an initiative to review the trade agreements signed with Egypt in previous years. The initiative is aimed at seeking methods to derive optimal benefit from the agreements.
“We are currently studying the free trade agreements between Egypt and other states, to achieve optimum utilisation,” Ahmed Al Wakeel, Director of FEDCOC, said. “Imports from these states will be identified alongside their specifications and applied customs. Accordingly,the competitive advantage of foreign productswill determined against its Egyptian counterparts. After which, manufacturers from Egypt and abroad will enter agreements through the FEDCOC. Those production agreements will occur in correspondence with similar federations on the other end to facilitate the induction of Egyptian products into the global market.”
Al Wakeel added that the trade negative lists as well as the imposed quotas on Egypt in several bilateral agreements are being examined as well. The mentioned quotas should be cancelled since the participating countries entered into regional agreements, such as the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), the Agadir and the COMESA agreements. “We are studying increasingthe imports of production supplies from these countries to obtain sufficient components of domestic production.” Standard Egyptian specifications are being reviewed as well in order to help exports develop and progress. Developing Egyptian exports, protecting Egyptian manufacturers against unfair competition from low-quality imports, and protecting Egyptian consumers are hopeful outcomes for bettering exporting specifications.
Mohamed Atteya, member of FEDCOC, expected proposing a study to activate free trade agreement with other states during the FEDCOC board meeting. A number of the mentioned agreements were not sufficiently promoted, and some foreign products permeated the Egyptian market under those agreements. However, the private sector has not benefitted as expected from them despite the additional privileges such as lifting custom tariffs.
Atteya stressed the importance of determining strategic goods fit for exportation, and taking appropriate measures to boost the competitive advantage of Egyptian products in foreign markets, facilitate exportation opportunities, and adjust exporting conditions, regulations and custom tariffs to ease the integration in the international economy. In addition, the FEDCOC is keen on entering into negotiations with different countries and identifying the competitive advantage of exports under free trade agreements.
Mohamed El Masry, Vice President of the FEDCOC, demanded reviewing the privileges given to foreign partners in the free trade agreements. El Masry stressed that imports have doubled, demonstrating a faulty commercial relationship between Egypt and the foreign states.
Great efforts are needed to introduce the Egyptian community to benefits of the various trade agreements which Egypt signed with Turkey and the Arab countries, he added.
Dr Abdul Sattar Ashra, FEDCOC consultant, stressed the importance of a maximum utilisation from the free trade agreement between Egypt and the Arab countries. Under auspices of the League of Arab States, signed agreements commenced in 1997, and by January 2005, custom tariffs were lifted on goods of Arab origin. Free trade agreements will allow importing the Egyptian industry’s essential supplies from a variety of sources. In addition, international expertise in all countries will be utilised and new commercial relations will be established between Egyptian businessmen and their international counterparts. Commercial relations should be strengthened with countries from which Egypt can procure raw materials, intermediary products and machines. The mentioned goods will hopefully meet the domestic market needs with reasonable prices and advanced technology.
Mahmoud Ghoneim, member of the Exporters Chamber at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, stressed the importance of introducing the business community to the benefits of importing and exporting. Export councils, alongside chambers of industry and commerce covering sectors of industrial and agricultural exports, play an important educating role to the business community.
Ghoneim added that the obligations on the Egyptian side in the agreements will raise skills of workers across different sectors of industry. They will also increase workers’ design and innovation capabilities, and encourage young manufacturers to establish new factories through developing their innovations. In addition, information exchange, technical researching, organising workshops for supporting competitive SMEs will be made possible through the free trade agreements.