1. Since both countries have very low trade volumes, how trade potential between the two countries could be tapped properly?
Two ways trade between Pakistan and Egypt is far below than the desired level to tap the existing potential. Both the countries have potential to improve trade relations, however, measures should be taken to facilitate regular business to business interactions between entrepreneurs of the two countries. Ongoing global economic recession and financial crunch were the one the main reasons of low turnout of trade volumes. Lack of information sharing also played not so healthy contribution in this regard. Frequent visits of interested businessmen, potential investors, and exchange of trade and commerce officials of both the countries would be useful. Close linkages between the chambers of commerce of both the countries could play vital role to promoting trade volumes.
2. Would you pleas tell us the volumes of trade between the two countries?
The bilateral trade volume between the two countries is relative low. It was at US$ 320 million in 2009 which went down to US$ 230 million in 2010. We hope that it would be surpassing to US$ 320 million in the near future. It is now our job to build on it and try to increase our trade volumes in the days to come. Our deputy foreign minister was in your country and afterwards, yours foreign minister went to Egypt and discussed about many topics including trade and commerce too. Our aim is to proceed on specified commodities and sectors to promote trade activities between the two countries. Excel in non-traditional commodity’s trade would be beneficial and private companies should come forward to avail this opportunity. We are working on the import of Wheat and Rice from Pakistan. Joint Business Council of Pakistan-Egypt is in its final stage and will be functioning very soon. We hope that it will facilitate the interaction between the business communities of the two countries.
3. Since, Egypt has good experience of utilizing alternative and renewable energy sources. What are the prospects of energy cooperation between the two countries?
Egypt has good experience of utilising alternative and renewable energy sources. Indeed, Egypt is pioneer in tapping alternative energy resources in the Middle East region especially in wind and solar energy. Many Egyptian companies are preparing themselves to invest in energy sector of Pakistan. The Egypt investment has reached to US$ 3.5 billion mainly in telecommunication sector and Mobilink is an Egyptian company. Egypt’s Sewedy Cables is considering investing in Pakistan’s wind energy sector. There are five projects of 10 megawatts each worth $200 million. This Egyptian company is going to start very soon “Wind Farm” project at the area “Karachi Corridor”. Egypt and Pakistan could get cooperation in this sector for overcoming its energy problems.
4. Egypt is very rich in its agricultural production and has diversified expertise in agro-based industries. What are the common areas of interests in agricultural fields for both the countries?
We feel that there is big potential in agriculture sector for both the countries. Cotton and rice would be main areas of cooperation. Egypt has edge in cotton production per acre with best quality. Pakistan is producing one of the finest qualities of rice but by using Japanese technology we have succeeded to increase our rice production by three times. A pilot project is now going on in Africa to increase rice production through this latest technology and Pakistan is willing to learn from us in this regard. Most recently, President of your country mentioned irrigation sector could also be one of the upcoming areas of mutual cooperation between the two countries. With the population boom, rapid industrialization and increase in agricultural production we are experiencing shortage of water. Water conservation would be another area of future cooperation.
5. Do you think that Egypt Business Women Association and Pakistani women entrepreneurs could enhance contacts to promote business relations?
It is possibility and now we are realizing. We have two big business women association in our country. These are Egypt Business Women Associations and Arab Business Women Association in Cairo. We hope that Egypt Business Women Association and Pakistani women entrepreneurs should enhance contacts to promote business relations.
6. How Egyptian investment zone can help Pakistani investors to enhance their exports to Europe and USA?
It is a success story in my beloved country. We have set up investment zones and Pakistani investors could promote duty free exports to Europe and USA by investing in these Zones as Egypt has duty free access to these markets. Pakistan’ side could also learn from us about the successful operations of free investment zones. So, we invited the Pakistani business men in textile sector to set up textile industries so that these could be exported to USA and EU without any tariff.
7. What special incentives/packages are given to potential investors and businessmen of Pakistan in Egypt?
Egypt is one of the few countries that have managed to post respectable GDP growth in 2009. We attracted US$ 8.1 billion worth of FDI in FY 2008/2009 despite global crisis. We ranked first in North Africa and second best destination for FDI in the African continent for 2009-2010. We offer 100 percent foreign ownership of companies. We have fast track dispute resolution services for all investors. Egypt also offers profit and dividends repatriation and settlement mechanism. To attract more foreign direct investments we have introduced many meaningful steps which include consumer protection laws, establishment of new commercial courts, one-stop shops and minimum capital requirements for LLC has been reduced to EGP200. To facilitate the business community we provide visa within 48 hours while Pakistan investors could get 3-years residential visa to do business in Egypt. Now we have many Pakistani businessmen investing in Egypt in textile sector.
8. What are the potential areas of cooperation between Pakistan and Egypt?
Agriculture, telecommunication, renewable/alternative energy, food processing, textiles, engineering, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, health education, tourism and building material are the potential areas of cooperation between the two countries.
9. What are the outcomes of latest JMC deliberations of both the countries?
Main outcome is better political understanding between the two countries. Most recently, Egypt has joined Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDPs). Other is economic cooperation realization too. Formalization of Joint Business Council is another outcome of latest JMC. Afterwards, we have many direct contacts between Pakistani and Egypt companies to promote bilateral trade. Chenone Pakistan will have partnership in Egypt to increase products export very soon. Some Egyptian companies are coming in Pakistan to invest in alternative energy sector. We are promoting true teaching of Islam through our scholar exchange program. We have now more than thirty professors from Al-Azhar University in Pakistan who giving their noble contributions.
10. How you rate diplomatic bilateral relations between the two sides?
We have been enjoying excellent diplomatic bilateral relations between the two countries. We have trustworthy political relations and now we are adding more technical cooperation to further strengthen our ties.
11. Does Egypt have Free Trade Agreement (F.T.A) with Pakistan if not, what are the chances to achieve this goal?
We do not have free trade agreement. Probably government of Pakistan may take initiative for further discussion. It is not an easy job. It takes years to achieve these goals.
12. Do you hopeful to have joint ventures between the private sectors of the two countries?
We have joint ventures and TWA Cable is the prime example of it. It is a communication cable going undersea to connect Pakistan with Middle East region.
13. Should we promote cultural and educational activities between the two countries?
We are offering 30 scholarships per year to Pakistan. Islamic Studies and Arabic Language are the main two areas of studies under this exchange program. With special reference to cultural ties, the Egyptian side is sending a cultural troop to Islamabad very soon to perform for the first time in ten years.
14. Since Egypt has rich heritage, history and tourism potential. What are the chances of having mutual cooperation in the field of tourism?
Last year issuance of visas to Pakistanis have doubled from 2008. Although it is still not a big number but we feel that we are at right track and with the passage of time it will increase. We believe in organized tourism and many Pakistani private tourism companies are working and collaborating with Egyptian companies to promote tourism between the two countries.
15. What are the chances of financial, banking and insurance cooperation between the two sides?
Pakistani banks are already operating in Egypt. Now we are working on insurance sector and hopefully we have mutual cooperation in this field too.
16. Does your good-office think that ant-dumping duty is one of the main hurdles in promoting and further strengthening of bilateral trade between the countries?
It is not a big issue. It does not exist to-day. Only one case was registered in the past which was amicably settled.
17. What are the socio-economic prospects of Egypt in 2010?
Historically, Egypt has been beacon of trade, culture and innovation since from its early days. And despite severe global economic meltdown and financial crunch, Egypt still succeeded to attract foreign direct investments of worth US$ 8.1 billion in 2008-09. Egypt has been labeled one of the best destinations of FDIs for many years due to its strong and stable macro-economic indictors. The GDP was 4.7 percent in 2008-09 and prospects are bright even in 2010. It has Arab World’s largest and most skilled workforce. Rigorous economic reforms has made it hub of all kinds of business exposures and economic activities. The annual CPI continued to decline in August 2009 reaching 8.4 percent. Unemployment rate is also not controlled. Egyptian society is dynamic and its economy is vibrant and both are contributing enough for its own survival.
18. Egypt was named one of the world’s top economic reformers by World Bank in 2009. What are the multiplier effects of these integrated reforms?
Egypt initiated comprehensive economic reforms 20 years ago. Rigorous agricultural, industrial, and financial reforms have been pursued in the last six years which are now paying its dividends. It has transformed our country from socialist state to free market arena. Now, we have free market economy apparatus with a human face having different plans to reduce poverty and generate employments. Most recently, we have introduced new pension system in order to eradicate poverty from the ranks of general masses.
19. What is the main geo-political or geo-strategic hurdle in achieving true peace in Middle East?
It is a big question. Egypt started negotiations with Israel thirty years ago. Egypt can talk to Palestine authorities, the US and the EU too. We can talk to Hamas for reconciliation. The Egyptian government is working on its three pronged strategy. It is to reactivate peace process between Palestine-Israel, try to eliminate Gaza problem since we have the only working border connection with Palestine people living in Gaza. In this connection, to alleviate sufferings of the Palestinian people in Gaza Strip the Egypt opened the Rafah Crossing to give access to more humanitarian and medical assistance to Gaza. At the same time our government denounced Israel’s resort to the use of force. Egypt is also continuing its diversified but integrated peaceful diplomatic efforts to remove Gaza blockade and guarantee the opening of all the Six Crossing between Gaza and Israel and simultaneously continues its efforts to help the Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas to reach reconciliation in order to end Israel’s blockade of Gaza forever.
20. How you rate the functionality of Arab League?
It is like OIC. Both are very good in issuing joint declarations but lacking badly any mechanism to implement it which is a serious weakness. It is because of weak political understanding and commitment.
21. What are the salient features of your foreign policy?
Egypt’s foreign policy stands for sovereignty, peaceful pursuit of socio-economic development and the last not the least sharing good relations with all the regional states and beyond. It also reflects protection of its strategic assets like water. It advocates its desire of being neutralism and nonalignment.
22. Would you favour to have N-free zone in Middle East?
Of course Egypt is in favour of Nuclear Free Zone in the Middle East region. Indeed Egypt was the first country in early 1990s the region to propose to have such kind of nuclear free zone. It was endorsed by the UN atomic watchdog and IAEA too. The annual IAEA general conference has in past years adopted Egyptian-inspired resolutions calling on states to work towards a Middle East nuclear-free zone but the texts never mention Israel by name. Since than Israel remained opponent of this proposal in the Middle East.
23. What are your proposals/suggestions to resolve the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict in the Middle East region?
It is gigantic task which needs rigorous diplomacy and dialogue. Basically it urgently demands reactivation of peace process between the Palestine-Israel authorities. It requires spirits of accommodation from Israeli establishment, attitude of reconciliation within the Hamas thinking and moreover, unity between Hamas and Al-Fatah ranks to achieve peace in the Middle East.
24. Are you in favour of economic protectionism or free & fair international trade?
We are in favour of having free and fair international trade system. But we also need to protect some of our infant domestic industries to make these competitive in the international markets which should be followed within the framework of WTO. Many developing countries and giant emerging economies like Brazil, India and even China are joint making efforts for some economic protectionism.
25. What are the scope, importance and prospects of the WTO? What should be pursued to achieve an equitable world trade order?
The success of WTO meetings is a must to achieve an equitable world trade world. It needs rigorous brainstorming and deliberations to achieve that specified goals.
Egypt was among the first’s country in the world which suffered badly from the deadly waves of terrorism in 1980s. The West propagated for poor human rights conditions and lack of freedom of expression and in a way supported these terrorist networks. But after the tragic incident of 9/11 they realized their faults and acknowledged Egyptian efforts to curb terrorism. We all agree that it is a inhumane act against all sacred teachings and norms. It is a global phenomenon which needs joint efforts to control it. It also requires overhauling in our already conceived wrong notions about the teachings of Islam and try to promote tolerance and moderate Islam because in 21th century we can afford to live in isolation.
27. What are the salient features of your energy policy?
We have a comprehensive energy policy which says about the fostering our efforts towards renewable and alternative energy resources. It also speaks about the different measures to conserve energy. It pinpoints certain targets to be achieved till 2020. More than 20 percent of total energy production will be produced from the renewable energy resources.
28. Are you country experiencing food or water shortage? Furthermore, what steps have been taken in this regards?
We do not have any food shortage in our country due to our qualitative and quantitative agricultural production system. We have water shortage and we are working on it. We are heavily dependent on the River Nile which flows from nine countries to reach the soils of Egypt. The rains in Uganda and Ethiopia play crucial role in Nile’s water flows. We have already negotiated with all the NILE countries to start common joint projects to save our waters, irrigations and agricultural systems.
29. What should be done regionally and globally to curb the high levels of climate change?
It is a serious global issue and we are also confronting with it. According to report of the World Bank, Egypt and Pakistan are the two worst affected countries in the world from deteriorating climate change. We must protect our coast lines/areas to minimize the multidimensional effects of climate change.
30. What are secretes of Egypt’s socio-economic transformation?
Visionary leadership, continuation of macro-economic policies, strong regulatory mechanism, industrialization of corporate and good governance and the last not the least rigorous introduction of economic and financial reforms made has made Egypt a vibrant country to excel in every possible fields.
31. Do Pakistan and Egypt have defence cooperation? What are your suggestions to boast defence cooperation between the two countries?
Yes Pakistan and Egypt do have reliable defence cooperation which covers all possible areas and sectors. We had 8th Joint Commission in defence cooperation in Islamabad last year.
32. Trust-deficit between the Europe and Muslim countries is on the rise. What steps should be initiated to improve mutual ties based on trust, respect, cooperation, tolerance and brotherhood in the future?
First of all we should be tolerant, civic and decent to others. We should share spirits of respectfulness towards other religions, its teachings and sacred personalities. Dialogue and exchange of prominent scholars could be a better option to dilute trust deficit levels.
Do you like culture, heritage, people and your stay in Pakistan?
Of course I very much like the culture, heritage and people of Pakistan. Pakistan is the land of colorful ancient histories and centre of diversified heritages. Its people are peace loving and educated. Moreover, staying in Pakistan is just like stay at home.
34. Do you think that there is an urgent need to have joint think-tank forum between the two countries to bring harmony, cooperation, collaboration and political commitment in the days to come?
We have been sharing and extending collaboration on different regional and international issues in the past. Yes there is a possibility to arrange a joint think-tank forum between the two countries.
35. Do you think that exchange of prominent scholars, intellectuals, media anchors and the last not the least journalist visits would be instrumental to strengthen further the bilateral ties and achieve better geo-political understanding between the two countries?
We have scholar exchange program that may be extended to other fields in the future.
We always value the sufferings of Pakistan being the front line state against the war against terrorism. We are with you in your happiness and sorrows.