Mercosur and Egypt should sign the trade agreement that they are negotiating during a meeting of heads of state from the South American bloc due July. According to the Egyptian minister of Trade and Industry, Rachid Mohamed Rachid, the intention is to sign the treaty before the end of Argentina’s term as temporary president of the bloc, which will end in July, after which Brazil will assume the rotating presidency once again.
The wish to establish the agreement was asserted by the Brazilian minister of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, Miguel Jorge, who is heading a mission of 86 businessmen to the Middle East and is also visiting Egypt. “We are ready to sign it,” Miguel Jorge told his counterpart.
Should the agreement be signed in July, it will be the first to be established by the Mercosur with an Arab country. The bloc is also negotiating with Morocco, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Jordan.
The list of products that may benefit from tariff reductions is still under discussion, but according to Jorge, the aim is for it to favor both Brazilian exports to Egypt and the other way around. Last year, the trade flow between the two nations totaled US$ 1.5 billion, US$ 1.4 billion of which consisted of sales from Brazil. The unbalance displeases Egyptian businessmen.
According to the president of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Salim Taufic Schahin, who is on the mission, a tax-free market improves products’ competitiveness. “You cannot maintain a trade surplus for a long period of time,” claimed Schahin. He believes that the agreement should favor Egyptian exports, but that Egyptians must also travel to Brazil more often in order to offer their products.
“They must go to Brazil more and look into the opportunities,” he said. Jorge spoke to the Egyptian press along similar lines. “The Brazilian market has great opportunities for Egyptian products.”
Schahin and Arab Brazilian Chamber director Mustapha Abdouni accompanied the meetings that Miguel Jorge had with Egyptian ministers. In addition to Rachid, he met with the minister of Housing and Urban Development, Ahmed Alaa E-Din Amin El-Maghrabi, and the minister of Transportation, Alaa El-Din Fahmy. Maghrabi expressed a desire to establish partnerships between Brazilian and Egyptian construction companies.
The minister suggested that they should work in joint projects in Africa and South America, an idea that was met with acceptance by Jorge.
Fahmy, in turn, wants to become better acquainted with the Brazilian experience in Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) for roads and railways. A technical team of the Egyptian Ministry of Transportation, alongside Fahmy, should travel to Brazil soon for talks with companies operating in the field, and also with the regulatory agencies.
With regard to roads, according to the minister of Housing and Urban Development, they also want to know the road concession and toll charging systems in Brazil. According to the Brazilian ambassador to Cairo, Cesário Melantonio Neto, who sat through the meetings, in Egypt, however, road toll charges in Egypt should be cheaper than in Brazil, because of the population’s income.
The president of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Salim Taufic Schahin, is going to head the establishment of a Brazil-Egypt Business council. The invitation was extended to him during a meeting between the Brazilian minister of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, Miguel Jorge, and representatives of the Egyptian General Authority for Investment (GAFI) in Cairo on Wednesday, April 14.
Jorge is heading a business mission to the Middle East comprising the Arab Brazilian Chamber’s president, and director Mustapha Abdouni. The Chamber is one of the organizations supporting the trip, which was organized by the Brazilian Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade.
The idea is for the two governments, Brazilian and Egyptian, to appoint businessmen for heading the council. The Arab Brazilian Chamber is going to work for this to take place, as agreed upon during the meeting, held at the Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel, where the Brazilian delegation is staying.
The GAFI already has a memorandum of understanding with the Brazilian Export and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex), which is linked to the Brazilian Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade. The talk with Jorge and other authorities, such as the Brazilian ambassador to Cairo, Cesário Melantonio Neto, was geared towards exchange of ideas and planning.
The work of the Arab Brazilian Chamber, by the way, was pointed out not only during this meeting, but also in the ones held with Egyptian ministers. Melantonio and Jorge praised the organization’s work in establishing closer ties between Brazil and the Arab world to the Egyptian authorities. According to Salim, thus far, the mission, which also traveled to Iran and will go to Lebanon, has yielded important results.
He underscored the interest of Egyptian ministers in the Brazilian experience with privatizations, and stated that companies from Brazil might take part in this process. The Egyptian ministers, by the way, talked a lot about cooperation with Brazil. “The ministers to whom we spoke are all very active and are seeking partnership,” said Schahin.
According to the Arab Brazilian Chamber’s president, Egypt is a very important country in the Arab world, with roughly 75 million citizens, and Brazil has a lot to contribute to its development. “All Brazilian experience is welcome,” he claimed.
The mission of the Ministry of Development started on Sunday, in Iran, and ends on Friday (16th) in Lebanon. In addition to the Arab Brazilian Chamber, the mission counts on support from the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the Apex and the Brazil-Iran Chamber of Commerce.