Xinhua | 22 May 2019
Interview: Free trade deal to benefit Chinese companies in Egypt, Africa: expert
by Marwa Yahya
CAIRO, May 21 (Xinhua) — The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is very important for Chinese companies in Africa, particularly in Egypt, an Egyptian economic expert said in an interview on Tuesday.
"Certainly, Chinese companies, especially those located in the Suez Canal’s economic zone, will benefit from the AfCFTA that will be enforced in few days," Waleed Gab-Allah, professor of financial and economic jurisdictions at Cairo University, told Xinhua.
The agreement is a basic tool for attracting more Chinese investment into Egypt, he added.
Gab-Allah said that China’s industrial developer Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA) is currently developing a total area of 7.23 square km in Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) in Ain Sokhna district of Suez province east of the capital Cairo.
The professor described TEDA as a good example for the Chinese mega projects that could market its products to African countries via the AfCFTA.
TEDA attracted many enterprises to the SCZone, including China’s fiberglass giant manufacturer Jushi, which helped Egypt become one of the largest fiberglass producers and exporters in the world over the past years.
He forecasted a 50-percent increase in the Chinese exports to the African countries when the agreement comes into force.
"The African free trade agreement will encourage more Chinese companies to work and invest in Egypt’s economic zone to benefit from the Suez Canal passage to Africa with reduced tariffs," he said.
Gab-Allah added that the new Egyptian investment law will improve the investment climate in the country.
In a statement on Tuesday, Egyptian Trade and Industry Ministry said that it will elevate the relations among the member states to the level of comprehensive strategic partnership and will put Africa on the global economy map.
"The agreement will contribute to the development of the intra-Africa trade movements, increasing the industrial growth rates and achieving technological development," the statement added.
The agreement will also contribute to the development of the infrastructure, the movement of people and the transfer of technical expertise, energy, IT and communication which are important for the sustainable development in Africa, Gab-Allah said.
During the meeting with a delegation from the African Union Commission on Monday, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli said that President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi gave priority to the AfCFTA agreement under Egypt’s current chairmanship of the African Union.
The prime minister stressed that Egypt’s capabilities, including logistic and infrastructure, enable it to be the seat of the head office of the agreement.
He added that Egypt was one of the first countries that signed the agreement which is due to take effect within days after 22 countries have ratified it so far.
The agreement seeks to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to the member countries’ trade in goods and services with the aim of reducing prices and achieving sustainable development on the continent, Madbouli said.
For their part, members of the delegation praised Sisi’s support for the African Union and issues of cooperation and development on the continent.
Gab-Allah, also a member of the Egyptian Association for the Political Economy, emphasized that enhancing the trade exchange among the African countries will bring its fruits for the Chinese long-term projects in Africa.
The agreement that includes 55 countries under the umbrella of the African Union aims at cancelling the tariffs and establishing a common African market by 2022, Gab-Allah said.
He expected Egypt to face harsh competition in winning the host of the executive headquarters of the AfCFTA.
Egypt’s large economy volume and regional strength will help the north African country to exercise a great role in activating the agreement, Gab-Allah added.