Egypt seeks free trade zone with Russia

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. © Mikhail Klimentyev
Cairo intends to sign a free trade agreement with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, according to the Egyptian Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Tarek Kabil.

"We consider it vital for Egypt and Russia to conclude a free trade agreement, which will include both our countries and the EEU,” Kabil told TASS.

“This agreement will have a positive impact on the overall trade as soon as it’s signed, and will open real opportunities to attract more foreign direct investment into Egypt," the Minister added.

According to Kabil, Egypt is aiming to become a base for Russian investment in Africa and the Middle East. The trade will be given a special boost after a Russian industrial zone at the Suez Canal is built.

“We are talking about the production of trucks, agricultural and construction machinery, ship building and furniture industries, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, energy and land reclamation projects," he said.

Kabil added that the industrial zone in the Suez Canal area will significantly improve not only Russia’s trade with Egypt, but with other African countries. “Seventy percent of Russian trade could be with Africa and 30 percent with the local market,” he said.

In 2014 Egypt announced the modernization of the Suez Canal, one of the world's major transportation routes. Originally, it was planned to complete the work in three years, but was cut to 12 months. The new Suez Canal will include a huge range of services, as well as several industrial parks, including Russian, Chinese and Italian.

The decision to build the Russian industrial zone in Egypt was reached by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi in 2014. The negotiations were temporarily frozen after the terrorist attack on a Russian airliner on 31 October 2015 over the Sinai Peninsula. However, Moscow and Cairo are now on the verge of signing the agreement.