Egypt and Russia are set to finalise a contract to establish a Russian industrial zone in the Suez Gulf Area in May, the country's Trade Minister Tarek Kabil announced on Thursday.
In statements reported by state news agency MENA, Kabil said discussions were on-going with the Russian side on the details of the plan, which he described as a top priority for the leadership of both countries.
The minister's statements followed his meeting with Russia's First Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Gleb Nikitin and a delegation of Russian businessmen, including the CEOs of 35 Russian companies in automobile and pharmaceutical production, and the petroleum, steel, and power industries.
Russia and Egypt are set to ink the deal in May at an Egyptian-Russian committee meeting in Moscow.
The minister did not provide details on the exact planned location of the zone inside the Suez Gulf area, or the expected timeframe to complete it.
A memorandum of understanding on the zone was signed by both countries in January 2016, following two years of negotiations.
Kabil said Egypt is also in discussions to sign a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.
"The [EAEU] agreement would represent a major shift in Egyptian exports to Western Europe and provide huge opportunities for Egyptian exports in such markets," Kabil said.
The minister said trade between Egypt and Russia amounted to around $4.16 billion last year.
According to the minister, Russia has invested $62.9 million in 408 projects in Egypt, in the fields of tourism, construction, industry, and services. Russia comes in 47th place on a list of countries investing in Egypt, he added.
Niktin emphasised the importance of boosting Egypt-Russia relations to unprecedented levels in trade and industry, saying Moscow has taken serious steps to support an Egyptian agreement with the EAEU.
The Russian delegation's visit coincides with other visits this week by Russian officials, including meetings between the country's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Egypt's Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi on boosting relations and increasing military cooperation.
Egypt and Russia are expected to sign all contracts related to the country's first nuclear power plant at Dabaa, in Marsa Matrouh governorate, in the early months of 2017.
In November 2015, Cairo signed an agreement with Russia to have the European country's state nuclear corporation Rosatom build Dabaa, with Russia lending Egypt the $25 billion needed to finance building and operating the plant.
Egypt would pay the loan back at an interest rate of three percent annually, with instalment payments beginning in 2029.