Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi met with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and French business leaders in Paris on Wednesday to discuss economic ties and bilateral projects, El-Sisi's office said.
During the talks, El-Sisi stressed that Egypt is "keen to develop its economic and trade relations with France by carrying out joint projects that meet the interests of both sides, contribute to creating jobs and support small- and medium-sized projects," presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said in a statement.
Prior to the meeting, the French ministry had said Le Maire would discuss "the means to facilitate investment and trade between the two countries and…how to best strengthen them in the future" with El-Sisi.
The talks were also attended by the Egyptian ministers of foreign affairs, trade, finance, planning, administrative reforms and transport.
The president and the French minister met with 20 executives from French companies currently working or investing in Egypt, or planning to do so, to discuss investment projects, particularly in the fields of energy, telecommunications, transport and sustainable cities.
During that meeting, El-Sisi discussed his government's sweeping economic reform programme and recent changes and legislation aimed at facilitating investment in Egypt and encouraging investors to pump money into new areas in the country.
He also listened to propositions by French businessmen "to improve the investment climate in Egypt."
A long-awaited investment law, which is aimed at attracting badly needed foreign investors to help the economy recover after the 2011 revolution, was passed by parliament earlier this year, and its executive regulations approved by the cabinet on Wednesday, bringing it into effect.
The law is expected to reduce red tape, especially for new projects, and provides a raft of incentives to investors, including tax breaks.
The president called on French corporations to invest in major national projects in Egypt, mainly the Suez Canal Economic Zone--a mega-project launched in 2015 to create an international industrial and logistics hub along the canal.
Four letters of intent were signed at the end of the morning’s meetings. They include one to promote the entrepreneurship of young Egyptians, one to finance a study on urban transport for the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, one between France’s SNCF state rail company and the Egyptian National Railways authority (ENR), and one between state-owned public transport operator RATP Dev and Egypt's National Authority for Tunnels (NAT) on maintaining Cairo’s oldest metro line and operating the third and newest line.
Egypt's transport minister said on Tuesday that Cairo is seeking to have France continue funding the construction of its third underground metro line, part of the country’s decades-long cooperation with Egypt on building the Cairo subway.
Hisham Arafat said Tuesday in comments carried by MENA that there would also be technical cooperation between Cairo and Paris to build two high-speed railway lines, as well as to bolster railway safety and security.
Paris has previously provided Egypt with concessional loans for the construction of its underground system.
The French minister reiterated his support for the economic reforms introduced by El-Sisi over the past two years, while highlighting the importance of the country’s economic partnership with Cairo, a ministry statement read.
El-Sisi's office quoted Le Maire as saying that he plans to visit Egypt "soon" along with a delegation of officials from French companies interested in investing in Egypt.
Egypt's government introduced a series of major economic reforms in recent years to revive the economy, including cutting fuel subsidies, introducing a new value-added tax (VAT), and floating the Egyptian pound.
El-Sisi began his four-day visit to Paris on Monday. Following bilateral talks with President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, the latter said he backs El-Sisi in his country's fight against terrorism and refused to "lecture" him on human rights.
In a separate statement on Wednesday, El-Sisi's office said the two countries have signed a number of agreements and cooperation declarations, including deals to fund Egypt's energy budget, develop healthcare centres in five governorates, and develop a water treatment plant in Alexandria.
The two countries also signed a number of "joint declarations" to establish power generation plants in Egypt's southern Aswan governorate and to bolster the country's social solidarity budget.