African News Dimension Network
Egypt against conditional deals
March 3, 2006
By Andnetwork .com
An Egyptian official yesterday said that the timing of signing a free trade agreement (FTA) "wasn’t appropriate from the Egyptian and US points of view".
Addressing a joint press conference with US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry Rashid Mohamed Rashid said the envisaged pact was not a grant from one government to the other.
"It should work for the benefits of both governments. Egypt has no intention to enter conditional deals whether politically or economically," he added.
Rashid and US Gutierrez yesterday signed in Cairo a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to renew the term of the US-Egypt Business Council.
"I have the honour to be here on my first trip to Egypt. The US and Egypt share the same goal of economic growth and prosperity, security and peace," said Gutierrez, who is on an eight-day tour to the Middle East to encourage economic reform and promote trade ties.
Egypt is a leader in regional trade and security, Gutierrez said, adding that he would be meeting with government officials to discuss plans for future reforms.
"I applaud the important measures that have been implemented and hope Egypt will continue along this path of economic reform and trade liberalisations," he said.
"This trip is a great opportunity to promote the economic side of our relationship with the Middle East countries and continue to help them in their quest toward freer societies which include free enterprise and trade," he added.
"President Bush and President Mubarak during their first meeting together made it a priority to re-establish the council. This is an ideal opportunity to allow business community members to express what their expectations are".
Gutierrez is the 35th Secretary of the US Department of Commerce, the voice of business in government. The former chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Kellogg Company, Gutierrez is a core member of President Bush’s economic team.
Minister Rashid said: "The Egypt-US Business Council is a bilateral business council created to facilitate private sector business growth in Egypt and to strengthen trade and investment ties between Egypt and the United States."
Jointly headed by an Egyptian and a US chair, the Council membership is made up of senior representatives of leading companies from both countries.
"The council represents an important element in the bilateral landscape. It is an ideal forum for cooperation and a mechanism for providing information, analysis, advice and guidance for the mutual benefit of both parties," added the Egyptian official.
"Egypt has no intention to enter conditional deals whether politically or economically," Rashid added.
He went on to say that the free trade agreement between Egypt and the US is not a grant from a government to another.
"It should work for the benefits of both governments," he explained, adding that the time of signing the agreement is "not appropriate from the Egyptian and the American points of view".
"Through the council, business leaders work for the development of stronger commercial ties between the US and Egypt, by assisting their respective private sectors to develop closer business relations and to establish a forum for cooperation that will promote economic growth and improve business climate in Egypt,"he added.
"The signing of the MOU represents the re-activation of this Council to play an important role in promoting stronger commercial relations between the two countries," Rashid added.
"As part of its activities, the council aims to exchange information and encourage bilateral discussions on a wide range of issues that affect the growth of the private sector in Egypt along with the promotion of business opportunities in Egypt and the US, as well as the identification of firms on both sides that might work together," Rashid said.
The visit is intended to strengthen the US commitment to partnership with Egypt in economic and democratic reforms.
In 2004, Egypt exports to the US were worth $1.1 billion while US imports cost $3 billion dollars.
Egypt receives $2 billion in US aid, making it the second largest recipient of US foreign aid after Israel.
Source : Egyptian Gazzette