Egyptians protest trade accord with Israel
14 December 2004
Scores of Egyptians protested across the country on Tuesday against the signing of a strategic trade and industry accord between Egypt and Israel, slamming the agreement as a form of colonialism.
Protests were reported in the delta region of Mahala and Ismailiya, north-east of Cairo, involving mostly textile factory workers, who stand to be most affected by the accord.
In Cairo, an estimated 50 protesters, mainly anti-globalisation activists and members of associations campaigning for the boycott of Israeli products, gathered at the headquarters of the journalists’ union to denounce the agreement.
"Egyptian workers are not for sale," they chanted, dismissing the accord as "part of a grand plan designed to serve colonialists".
The protesters also chanted slogans against Israel, the United States and the Egyptian government, branding the agreement a "humiliation" to all Egyptians and demanding that it be scrapped.
One placard read: "No to Quiz", referring to the qualified industrial zones (QIZs) that will be set up under the accord.
The deal — the first between Egypt and Israel since their 1979 peace treaty — will establish joint industrial zones in Egypt from where goods will be exported to the US duty-free.
Cairo had resisted the US-backed deal for several years, but its hand was forced by new US textile import regulations, which will come into force on January 1 and that could have a dealt a knock-out blow to Egypt’s key sector.
The new regulations could have cost $479-million in lost Egyptian exports and the scrapping of 200 000 jobs, according to Egypt’s Minister of Finance, Yussef Boutros-Ghali.