Khaled Abdelrahman Abdellatif Shamaa
Ambassador
Embassy of Egypt in Mexico
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Egypt, Mexico Eye Trade Expansion, Bilateral Cooperation

By Andrea Villar | Fri, 07/23/2021 - 09:07

Q: What are the most important items on your agenda?

A: We are focusing this year on strengthening bilateral cooperation between Mexico and Egypt and we have two priorities. The first is the expansion of the existing trade, investment and economic cooperation relationship between Egypt and Mexico. The second is to enhance our bilateral cooperation in the fields of education, culture, arts, cinema and music. Both Mexico and Egypt are home to a huge and well-diversified cultural heritage and potential. Both countries are familiar with each other but we want them to get to know one another better. Mexicans and Egyptians are also similar in their daily habits and they share similar dreams and aspirations. 

For me, this represents a learning experience, as well. I have had the opportunity to meet several literary figures in Mexico, as well as academics from different universities and museums. What I have seen in these past few months demonstrates that we have a great deal in common. We want to raise awareness of the culture of both countries and give Mexicans the opportunity to understand and know more about Egypt and vice versa. 

Q: How has the trade and commercial relationship between Mexico and Egypt evolved?

A: Egypt has a domestic market of almost 105 million people, comprised mostly of young people with high purchasing power. It is also a market linked through free trade agreements with a wider African market comprising 52 states, with quite diversified purchasing power in various areas. It is also a trading hub in the Arab region, North Africa and the Middle East. Egypt also has an association agreement with the EU, allowing products produced in Egypt to be exported duty-free to the European market. Production facilities established in Egypt enjoy easy access to export markets through the Suez Canal, which is the No.1 global transportation corridor, a main commercial route. Several economic and industrial free zones have been established in Egypt. 

For Mexican entities, whether they are companies, organizations or states, Egypt offers many opportunities. Moreover, Egyptian entities are also interested in the Mexican market. We already have a fairly significant volume of trade, although it is not as much as we would like. We also have a good investment portfolio between both countries. There are Mexican investments in Egypt but there is also Egyptian investment in Mexico, especially in the oil and gas industry. We are looking to diversify investment opportunities between both countries.

We seek to enhance trade and investment relations with all sectors and regions in Mexico. We do not have a pre-established list of areas of interest. In reality, the main driver is the interest by the Mexican side. For example, we have already been in contact with several states that have shown interest in doing business with Egyptian companies. We are willing to work with any Mexican company that wants to target Egypt and has an interest in the African and Middle Eastern market. We are open to discuss any questions they may have and show them the opportunities that exist in Egypt, paving the way for them to start their work or operations there. Working with Egypt and being stationed there provides companies with a global and regional footprint that would enhance their volume of production and business globally.

Cheiron, for example, is one of the Egyptian oil companies present in Mexico. This is one example that demonstrates how much can be done together. They are also expanding their portfolio and they are looking into increasing their investments in Mexico. The oil and gas sector is very important for both our countries because, at the end of the day, energy is the driving force of every economic activity. Egypt has huge experience in that sector, specifically in terms of gas. We are also establishing the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Association and Egypt is becoming a hub for gas in the Eastern Mediterranean with potential production that has increased exponentially in the past few years. Also, we recently started the operation of two liquefaction plants in Egypt, which will provide the opportunity to export Egyptian gas to the European market. We stand ready to work with Mexico in that area. Likewise, and with the growing interest in renewable energy in Mexico, we believe that Egypt with its vast expertise and potential in terms of solar and wind power plants, including the mega solar plant in BenBan, can prove a useful cooperation partner for Mexico in that field.

Q: Is Egypt open for business with any Mexican company in any industry?

A: The Mexican market is quite diversified. That said, from what I have been receiving as requests for products from Mexico over the past few months, some are in the agro-industry sector. However, we work a lot in the chemical industry as well. we also import vehicle motors. There is great potential in most sectors. It is just about finding the right formula and doing an assessment of the market potential. The African market is very diversified, with increasing potential. It is not a saturated market or a region with a margin of growth. It is a market that has an appetite for consumption, production and all economic activity. 

There are also good developments in the services sector and the technology industry. That could also open the door to joint collaboration between Egyptian and Mexican companies. We are not pigeon-holed to one sector. It all depends on the interest, purpose and plan of each company. If a company wants to expand and create a global footprint, we are ready to work together.

Q: What are your expectations regarding the recovery of tourism between Egypt and Mexico?

A: With the continuous roll-out of the vaccination programs, we remain hopeful for the prompt resumption of pre-pandemic tourism levels. In Egypt, we have resumed tourism activity and we are receiving many Mexican tourists. On the other hand, in Mexico, we have had many Egyptian tourists coming here during the Christmas and New Year period and also throughout the last couple of months. Our aim is not only to return to normal; we want to really be present in Mexican society. Egypt is not only the pyramids; we are a country that does not have a simple history. We have a multi-layered history, from the pharaonic period to the Greek-Roman period. But we also have a French influence that came with Napoleón Bonaparte and a British influence. Before and during World War I, we had a huge influence from various communities, such as Italians, Greeks, Armenians and others.

Egypt is a multi-faceted cultural and historical place. Apart from that, there are also beautiful tourist destinations for those who are into aquatic sports, such as diving and snorkeling. Our diving locations along the Red Sea are among the best in the world. It is important to stress that we are not in competition with Mexico because both countries have different features. For Egyptians, it is attractive to come and enjoy the nature of Mexico, as much as it is for Mexicans to go to Egypt and enjoy and benefit from visiting our country.

We are also about to open the new Grand Egyptian Museum, which was supposed to be opened last year but was postponed due to the pandemic. It is expected to be inaugurated in the second half of 2021. The Grand Egyptian Museum will be the biggest museum in the world as it will cover the pharaonic history of our country, but also the Greek and Roman periods in Egypt. It is built on almost 81,000 square meters. The most interesting thing about it is that it is not only a museum, but it will be part of a greater Giza Pyramid complex. In this way, tourists will not only be able to enjoy the majestic pyramids but also the museum in a single experience. The expectation is to have around 5 million visitors annually.

I would also like to invite your esteemed readers to visit the opening ceremony of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, which took place a couple of weeks ago, and was preceded by the Pharaoh’s Golden Parade.

And finally, I wish to express my wishes for all your esteemed readers to be well and healthy. I look forward to working with you all in enhancing cooperation between our two nations.

Photo by:   Khlaed Shamaa
Andrea Villar Andrea Villar Journalist and Industry Analyst