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Under George Bush’s administration, in 2003, the US Trade Representative is said to have ’punished’ Egypt by suspending all overtures towards an FTA when Egypt withdrew its support for a US dispute against the European Union on trade in genetically modified crops at the WTO. This lasted until late 2004, when the overtures started picking up again. However, the US froze FTA talks after allegations of fraud and corruption surrounding Egypt’s December 2005 elections and they have not restarted since.

In the meantime, the US brokered a deal between Egypt and Israel to set up a ’qualifying industrial zone’ between the two countries, which angered both Egyptians and Arab neighbours. In 2009, under Obama’s administration, US and Egyptian trade officials signed a Plan for a Strategic Partnership which pledged to follow “a program of intensified U.S.-Egyptian cooperation on economic, trade, and investment issues”. But there have been no substantive moves towards negotiating a bilateral FTA between the two countries.

The European Union has had a preferential trade agreement with Egypt since 2001, which it hopes to upgrade in the process of achieving a fullblown EU-Mediterranean FTA.

Egypt signed a bilateral FTA with Turkey in December 2005, and another with EFTA in 2007. In 2010 it signed an FTA with Mercosur. Regionally, it is party to the Agadir Agreement, GAFTA and COMESA. Cairo is currently negotiating or considering FTAs with Russia, India and Indonesia.

last update: May 2012
photo: Hossam el-Hamalawy/CC BY 2.0

Don’t hold your breath
Despite a list of reforms enacted in the last six months, Egypt seems no closer to a free-trade deal with the United States as the current ambassador heads back to Washington for a high-powered new post.
Mubarak, Zoellick discuss regional issues, bilateral relations
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak held talks Thursday with visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick on regional issues and bilateral relations, the official MENA news agency reported.
Walking tall
By tying a free-trade agreement to the outcome of Egypt’s ongoing political reform campaign, Washington is ramping up the pressure. Can the Nazif Government set up an infrastructure that will make strong business ties indispensable regardless of the political atmosphere?
Free-trade deal with Indonesia under review
Egypt is to consider an Indonesian request to establish a joint free-trade agreement, sources at the Ministry of International Cooperation said yesterday.
Egypt-US talks on FTA start next year
Egypt-US negotiations on setting up a free trade area will probably start early next year when the US administration and Congress finishes negotiations with some countries in Central America, US economic sources said.
Washington drags its feet over US-Egypt free-trade agreement
Egypt and the United States want to negotiate a free trade agreement but have not agreed on a date to begin talks, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif said after talks with U.S. officials in Washington.
Egypt’s Nazif optimistic on free trade pact with US
Egypt and the United States want to negotiate a free trade agreement but haven’t decided when to begin, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said on Tuesday after talks with US officials.
Changing minds
Rachid Mohamed Rachid, appointed to the industry and foreign trade portfolio last July, speaks to Al-Ahram Weekly about his efforts to reinvigorate the industrial sector and to integrate Egypt more fully into the global economy.
Egypt: Privatizing the Cabinet
Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rachid Mohamed Rachid is bringing three decades of private sector experience to his post, taking on the twin challenge of modernizing industry and expanding foreign trade.
Egypt: FTA controversy
Egypt and the US held the most high-level bilateral trade meeting since 2002 last week - a sign that the eventual opening of formal negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) could be in the works. However, officials on both sides were vague as to when that might be, saying that there were still important issues to be resolved before proceeding to the next stage of trade negotiations.