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Historic ties at core of China-Egypt relationship
December 22, 2014, 4:22 pm

During his trip to Beijing, Egypt's El-Sissi is looking to evolve relations with China into a strategic partnership [Xinhua]

During his trip to Beijing, Egypt’s El-Sissi is looking to evolve relations with China into a strategic partnership [Xinhua]

When President Abdel-Fatah El-Sissi arrives in Beijing late on Monday, he will be the latest in a long line of Egyptian leaders that have maintained 60 years of strong social, economic, and political ties with China.

Egypt was considered to be the first among African nations to establish strategic cooperative relations with China in 1955.

The two countries have traditionally focused on promoting six major fields: political trust and mutual support, practical cooperation in all fields, promoting exchanges and cooperation, strengthening cooperation in anti-terrorism and law enforcement security, and improving the exchanges of culture, tourism and other fields.

The two countries have also established mutual support and cooperation in international and regional affairs.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stressed during his last press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that the friendship between the two countries is based on strong historical foundations.

Egypt considers China to be a critical strategic partner and friend, he said.

“Egypt stands ready to strengthen high-level exchanges and deepen strategic cooperation with China, draw on China’s development experience, connect its national revitalization plan with China’s development strategy, expand all-round cooperation with China, and welcome China to enhance investment in Egypt,” Shoukry said during a press conference welcoming Yi to Cairo in August.

“[We will] actively participate in cooperation in infrastructure, new energy, manufacturing, agriculture and other fields so as to help Egypt realize economic and social development,” he added.

Then the foreign ministries of the two countries established a mechanism of strategic exchanges between the two sides in the areas of news and information, culture and education, health, science and technology.

El-Sisi’s visit to China is his first official trip since he was elected president in June. He will hold a summit with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping followed by talks between the two leaders in the presence of the delegations of the two countries.

On Tuesday, both countries will participate in a signing ceremony of a comprehensive strategic partnership, which Egyptian diplomats hope will help evolve traditional ties into a special relationship that China affords to only a few countries.

Extensive trade exchange

China and Egypt have long established trade and cultural exchange which will form the foundation of a new era in their relationship.

On August 22, 1955, a trade agreement and a protocol were signed in Beijing. A supplementary agreement to the 1955 trade agreement, which opened a new avenue for importing and exporting,  was signed in 1960.

According to the Egyptian State Information Service, the amount of trade exchanged between Egypt and China in 1987 stood at $135 million; $125 million in Chinese exports to Egypt and $10 million in Egyptian exports to China.

In just eight years, this jumped to $452 million; $439.64 million of that was from Chinese exports to Egypt, while $13.6 million were comprised of Egyptian exports to China.

According to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), two-way trade increased from $610 million in 2004 to over $6.24 billion in 2014, representing a 10-fold increase, which surpassed a target figure of $5 billion for 2016.

Egypt’s exports to China – which include marble and granite, cotton, crude oil, carpets, plastic products, iron and steel. toilet appliances, linens, crystals, glass, fruits and condensed juices, among others – increased from $30 million to $430 million in this period.

China, meanwhile, exports animal products, textiles, metal products, electrical appliances, children’s toys, school equipment, shoes, to Egypt.

While most of the world since 2008 stepped back from investments due to the global financial crisis, China and Egypt upped the ante.

Until 2005, China concentered on 35 projects and most of them were in textiles, chemicals, and engineering, foodstuff and leather products in addition to investing in such sectors as those of building materials, petroleum, maritime transport, metallurgy and IT.

On the other side, the Chinese Ministry of Trade said that until 2005 Egypt concentrated on 43 projects in sectors as ready-made clothes, textiles, leather and plastic products, and carpets.

By 2008, Egypt’s exports to China grew by 78.6 per cent, much higher than the growth of its total exports, and China has become one of the fastest growing export markets for its goods.

In the same year, a Chinese center was constructed in Egypt’s North West Suez Special Economic Zone (SSEZ) located on the Red Sea. Chinese tourists visiting Egypt during that period reached in excess of 100,000 a year.

China’s accumulated investments in Egypt surpassed $500 million in 2014, accounting for the creation of over 3000 local jobs.

Political cooperation

Over the years, China and Egypt have also increased their mutual political support, particularly in international forums and organizations.

“China stands ready to intensify communication and coordination with Egypt on the UN Security Council reform, climate change, human rights and other issues, and hopes that Egypt [will] play a better role in leading China-Arab and China-Africa collective cooperation and facilitate the Islamic states developing relations with China,” a statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website says.

Ahmed El Sewedy, Chairman of the Egypt-China Business Council, says El-Sissi’s trip to Beijing is crucial at at this time because China is willing to manufacture and produce inside Egypt – a development will translates into increased employment in the private sector.

China wants to invest in both Arab and African states, he says, and the only way to do that is to invest in the country that falls in the middle – Egypt.

By Nourhan El-Berry for The BRICS Post in Cairo, Egypt

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