Egypt looks for opportunities in Al-Sisi’s visit to US

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A number of politicians and experts have praised the importance of the five day visit of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to the US capital Washington, DC, where he will meet with US president Donald Trump following an official invitation.

Al-Sisi is also scheduled to meet with a number of US cabinet members and representatives of the decision-making circles in the US, as well as Republican and Democratic members of the US congress and the heads of a number of committees.

The meeting will include reviews on Egypt’s economy and political conditions, discussions over boosting bilateral relations, and ways of increasing investments between both countries.

The visit raised questions on what topics Egypt would discuss during the visit, and what would could be the benefits.

Regarding the visit’s importance, Yasser Rezk, the ambassador of Egypt to the US, said that Al-Sisi’s visit to Washington represents a new stage in the Egyptian-American relations, and that history will record it due to its great importance for the two countries’ relations.

Regarding topics that Al-Sisi will focus on, the president will review what Egypt has recently achieved, especially with its new national projects. The primary focus will also include challenges Egypt is facing, particularly with terrorism and the circumstances that led to the signing of the agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Political science professor Hassan Nafaa told Daily News Egypt that the visit is of great importance for the two countries, as there were tensions between both countries that occurred after the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated regime. He stated that this visit would contribute to more Egyptian-American cooperation.

During the administration of former US president Barack Obama, the relations deteriorated, as he believed the ouster of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi by the armed forces in 2013 was a military coup. The US, as a result, cut its military aid to Egypt, but decided to continue payments and shipments of military goods in 2015.

Nafaa urged, however, that the visit will benefit both countries’ relations, but also has another warning considering Egypt’s policies, explaining that Trump’s stance of supporting Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal of a two state solution contradicts what Egypt is attempting to accomplish for the Palestinian and Israeli side, which includes activation of the aforementioned solution.

Ibrahim Owis, the honorary president of the Egyptian-American Relations Council, said in a televised phone call that the visit is very important because it represents the first formal meeting between the Egyptian and American presidents.

He noted that the Egyptian-American talks will focus on the continuation of economic assistance and exchange of experiences between the two countries, pointing out that it will address many fields.

The visit will also represent an affirmation of the pivotal role played by Egypt in the region, Owis continued, also adding that Egypt is considered one of the most important countries in the Middle East.

On the other hand, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the US president welcomes Al-Sisi’s visit to Washington and added that the US president will use the visit to continue improving relations between the two countries. He also added that the two leaders will discuss a number of bilateral and regional issues.

Ahead of Al-Sisi’s visit to the US, Egyptian Minister of Industry and Trade Tarek Kabil emphasised the importance of the strategic Egyptian-US economic relations, which is witnessing a giant leap forward across all levels, pointing out that the visit of Al-Sisi to the United States marks an important step toward strengthening the economic and investment partnership to reflect the common interests of the two countries.

There is a great chance for the two countries to increase trade relations and joint ventures, as the volume of trade exchange between the two countries stands at about $5bn during 2016, where Egyptian exports rose by 6 % to reach $1.493bn compared to $1.405bn in 2015, while the value of Egyptian imports to the United States diminished by 26%. Egypt is ranked 49th within the list of top importers from the United States, reaching $3.506bn in 2016 against $4.752bn during 2015, pointing out that the deficit in the balance of trade between Egypt and the United States dropped from $3.347bn in 2015 to reach $2.013bn in 2016, marking a 40% decline, said Kabil before leaving Cairo to accompany Al-Sisi on the visit.

A significant portion of Egypt’s exports to the US comes from the Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZ) agreement, which make up around 45% of Egypt’s total exports to the US. The agreement, which was signed in 2005 between Egypt, the US, and Israel, grants duty-free entry to the US for products jointly manufactured by Egypt and Israel. Originally, QIZ products had to have 11.7% of their content comprised of Israeli inputs in the form of labour and/or material, but as of January 2008, the minimum content requirement was reduced to 10.5%. Egypt and Israel agreed in 2015 to double their textile exports to the US under the agreement to reach $2bn within a three year period.

Moreover, a delegation from the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt (AmCham), and the Egypt-US Business Council (EUSBC), will hold meetings with American investors to explain Egypt’s economic reform efforts to encourage them to invest in Egypt, said Anis Aclimandos, president of AmCham.

Egypt is Africa’s biggest investment partner for the United States and its second largest investment partner in the Middle East after the United Arab Emirates. US direct investments in Egypt accounted for about 33% of its total investments in Africa in 2015, said Kabil, adding that the US is one of the ten largest foreign direct investment sources in Egypt, registering at $23.7bn, with a total of 1,221 companies operating in different industrial sectors and services, such as construction, funding, agricultural, tourism, telecommunications, and information technology.

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