While Russia is applying pressure on eastern European countries to postpone trade agreements with the European Union (EU), Egyptian analysts expect less pressure on Egypt to reduce its economic relations with the EU.
During the summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Minsk, Belarus on 10 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that Moldova must take into account Russia’s interests before developing relations with the EU, calling for the postponement of a free trade deal between Moldova and the EU until 2016.
Putin added that Russia is not against establishing closer ties with the EU; however, he stated that conditions of rapprochement should be discussed.
The EU has imposed sanctions against Russia in response to the annexation of Crimea in March. Both of the EU and the US think Russia is supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine through armouring them and providing troops.
Professor of Political Economy at Cairo University Farag Abdel Fattah predicted that Russian would not lobby Egypt to cut ties with the EU, explaining that, in economic relations, market competition is the key factor, rather than political affiliations. “If Russia has offered economic facilitations, Egypt would increase trade ties with it, and vice verse,” Abdel Fattah added.
Egypt is striving to maintain a balanced policy with both parties, stated Saeed Al-Lawendy, a researcher in International Politics at the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, explaining that Russia will not risk its “good” relation with Egypt by forcing it to reduce ties with the EU.
Egypt will benefit from the EU’s ban on exports to Russia by exporting agricultural products to Russia, Egyptian Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour said in September.
However, Abdel Nour told the Daily News Egypt in an interview in September he thinks the EU and the US are not happy about closer relations between Egypt and Russia.
Abdel Nour visited Moscow in September where he called on Egyptian companies exporting to Russia to establish affiliate offices in Moscow to market their products. He has also assigned the Egyptian embassy’s trade office to study expansion in trade centres showcasing Egyptian products.
Egypt also seeks to promote its economic relations with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) – which currently is comprised of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia – as Abdel Nour will visit Kazakhstan next week to reinforce the shared trade and economic relations between the two countries.
Abdel Nour disclosed in a statement this week that a delegation from the EEU will visit Egypt in the next few weeks. The visit will review all aspects of the agreement to establish a free trade zone between Egypt and the countries of the EEU.
Egypt’s agricultural exports to Russia have significantly increased and will increase further in the coming period, Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade spokesperson Yasser Gaber noted.
Earlier in August, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss bilateral cooperation on the economic and political fronts. Following the visit, Putin announced that Russia – the largest wheat exporter to Egypt – will supply the country with 5m tonnes of wheat throughout the year.
During the visit, Al-Sisi also agreed with Putin to establish a Russian industrial zone as part of the new Suez Canal Project. The Russian government also approved Egypt’s proposal to begin negotiations regarding the establishment of a free trade zone between Egypt and EEC countries.
Following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, Egypt sought closer ties with Russia after Washington suspended military aid. Al-Sisi has visited Moscow once as defence minister and once as president.