You have represented your country as Head of the Economic & Commercial Office in several countries such as China, Canada, South Korea, Saudi Arabia. Before coming here, what were your knowledge about Romania?
Romania is realy a wonderful country. I’m very happy that I was appointed as Minister Plenipotentiary for Economic and Commercial Affairs, Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Bucharest. I started my mission about three months ago. It’s nice to continue, somehow, the work of my father who was working 38 years ago as the Head of the Economic & Commercial Office of Egypt in Bucharest. I’m very proud to replace him.
Romania is very important for Egypt as a gateway to Europe. At the same time, the vice-versa is valid as Egypt is Romania’s gateway to Africa and Middle East. Egypt location is a strategic one for both continents.
Romania and Egypt share a longstanding friendship, celebrating this year the 111th anniversary since the establishment of their diplomatic relations. How can be valued this situation?
The relationship between the two countries is very important. Even before the 1989 revolution, Romania was an important trade partner for Egypt. Now we are seeking more Romanian investors in different domains such as IT, chemicals, engineering products, heavy industries, which are very important for the Egyptian economy as well.
I must admit that I’m not very satisfied with the current economic ties. We have a lot of recommendations that we want to transpose them into reality. We want to make together some action plans to be implemented.
In this respect, Egypt and Romania have joined the Economic Cooperation Committee, a committee revived after seven years of stagnation, following the official visit this summer of Dr. Sahar Nasr, Minister of Investment and International Cooperation to Bucharest. Thus, last July, both countries signed several memorandums of understanding focusing on the main sectors of interest: agriculture, investment, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), natural gas, irrigation, maritime transport (between Alexandria and Constanta ports), tourism a.s.o. It’s very important to know what are the common business opportunities.
You have just said that you are not fully satisfied with the relations between the two countries in terms of figures and investment. What’s missing?
My vision is to have a strategic plan between Egypt and Romania for the upcoming 20 years. It is an appropriate time horizon to make concrete the visions between the two countries and to be well organized.
In this situation, what should the authorities in Romania do to attract more Egyptian investors?
Trading, investment, technology transfer are the main aspects of the economic relation between Romania and Egypt. Each one of these parts is very important. We have a lot of tools and mechanisms to carry out the strategic plan.
Trading means Egypt to increase its exports into Romanian market and vice versa through exhibitions, fairs, business delegations, promotional activities between the two countries, in order to remove the barriers that prevent the smooth running of things. Seminars and conferences are important as well. An integrated vision not only for Egypt or for Romania. We have a lot of key project in Africa as you know. So, why we could not cooperate for African contracts in infrastructure, constructions, IT?!
Specifically, what are the barriers?
The checks for quality control for exemple. They are good for Romania as part of the European Union, with special specifications for the Egyptian market, but there may be some facilities for both countries by arranging some technical committees. We also have to arrange the trading payment system. All should be in according with the international standards, not just to be a transfer of amounts between the two countries. We can use the international trading system.
How the data on Romania-Egypt trade look like at the moment?
The situation is getting better than before. Egyptian exports to Romania reached USD 58.7 million in H1 of 2017, while the Romanian exports to Egypt amount to USD 182.7 million. The Romanian – Egyptian trade volume stood at USD 241.4 million in January-June period.
But all the exports in 2016 stood at USD 77.1 million, while Romanian exports into Egypt – at USD 330.6 million. The trade volume between Egypt and Romania amounted to USD 407.7 million.
Egypt is exporting to Romanian market fertilisers, electric cables, vegetables and food, chemicals, plastic products, agriculture.
The Romanian side’s exports into Egypt represent wheat, crops, wood, agriculture tools, engineering services, machinery, equipments, chemicals a.s.o.
At the end of June 2017, 1,773 trading companies with Egyptian shareholding were registered in Romania, the total amount of the subscribed share capital in Romania amounted to USD 42.4 million, according to the National Office of Trade Registry (ONRC).
As regards the Romanian investments into Egypt, they amount to USD 80.3 million for 16 projects targeting services, industry, IT and telecommunication. We have more than USD 100 million as Egypt direct investments on your market.
Moreover, it was agreed that a Romanian business delegation headed by Ilan Laufer, the Minister of Trade and Entrepreneurship, to visit Cairo in November to transfer their experience in entrepreneurship and the establishment of micro projects.
At the same time, we are preparing for the next year, in January, an Egyptian promotional delegation to promote the exports of my country to Romania.
Since you started your term here, what exactly did you manage to know about Romania?
I attended the sheep festival in Brasov County on September 25-27, also known as ”sheep scattering”. Egypt is interested in the sheep in Romania because they are a quality product, they are grown in natural environment, they are fed very well, they are very healthy animals and that’s what we are most interested in. The prices are good too.
Following this event, we have agreed to conclude a contract with the Federation of Mountain Shepherds in Romania regarding the sheep export. Egyptians prefer the Turcana breed in Romania and for the starters, they want to buy 4 million lambs from the local shepherds, at a price of EUR 3 per kilogram.