INTERVIEW: Egypt is EU’s biggest investment market in Africa, second in Mediterranean

Doaa A.Moneim , Wednesday 6 Oct 2021

Christian Berger, the European Union (EU) Delegation’s Ambassador to Egypt, ,spoke to Ahram Online on the sidelines of the second ministerial conference of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), which kicked off in Cairo on Monday.

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Berger said that Egypt is the biggest investment market for the EU in Africa and the second biggest market in the Mediterranean, thus there is a very strong and growing interest from European companies to invest and expand in the Egyptian market, which is a positive sign on the bilateral relations between the two sides.

Accordingly, Egypt is the EU’s 29th largest trading partner globally, representing 0.7 percent of the EU’s total trade in goods with the world in 2020 despite the severe impacts of the pandemic on trade and supply chains globally, according to Berger.

Meanwhile, the EU is Egypt’s biggest trading partner, covering 24.5 percent of Egypt’s trade size in 2020 and 25.8 percent of its imports; also, 21.8 percent of Egypt’s exports go to the EU.

On the total trade value in goods between the EU and Egypt, Berger said that it hit €24.5 billion in 2020; as EU’s imports from Egypt amounted to €6.4 billion, mainly in fuel and mining, chemicals, agriculture products besides raw materials, and textiles and clothing.

Additionally, the EU’s exports to Egypt recorded €18.1 billion in 2020, which mainly included machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, agriculture, raw materials, as well as fuel and mining products, said Berger.

On trade in bilateral services between the two sides, he explained that it reached €10.9 billion in 2019, however, it has decreased due to the global shock caused by the pandemic in 2020 and its impact on the tourism sector.

Regarding disruptions to supply chains amid the pandemic, Berger told Ahram Online that a lesson that should be learned from the coronavirus is the necessity of bringing production closer to the EU in the region.

He stressed that Egypt has very well-developed infrastructure, transportation, and a young skilled labour force, and that is a significant incentive for European companies to invest in the Egyptian market.

Concerning the recent update on the free trade area between the EU and Egypt under the Association Agreement signed in 2004, Berger told Ahram Online that the EU plans to upgrade this deal to an extensive comprehensive free trade arrangement, referring to ongoing talks between the two sides regarding the topic.

“There are constant discussions between trade officials in the EU and Egypt’s Ministry of Trade and Industry on how to continue to improve the flow of goods between the two parties,” Berger illustrated to Ahram Online.

“This week, the EU’s responsible director for trade will discuss with the Egyptian ministers of trade, finance, and agriculture ways to keep and improve the trade flow between Egypt and the EU’s countries for the sake of increasing trade volume and avoiding any sorts of disruptions.”

Concerning future steps the EU intends to take in the Egyptian market regarding boosting the economy and investment, the ambassador said that digitising the economy is one of the main areas that the EU is interested in, adding that Egyptian companies, the business community, and the concerned ministers are very eager to work on this, as it is a guarantee to stay ahead of the global market and to compete.

He added that the EU’s commissioner for the Southern Neighbourhood will visit Egypt later in October to participate in Cairo’s Water Week event and will have talks to discuss ways to boost Egypt’s efforts in this area.

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