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Business visitsBy Mona El-Fiqi
Two high-level delegations including more than 60 Danish and 20 Cypriot businessmen were in Egypt to scout out new investment opportunities and to strengthen economic relations with this country.
At a seminar held at the Ministry of Trade and Supply's headquarters, members of the Cypriot delegation praised Egypt's success in implementing its economic reform programme and expressed hopes of cementing bilateral trade.
Foremost among the topics the Cypriot delegation discussed with Egyptian officials were means to increase Egyptian exports to Cyprus, activating the agreement signed between both countries' federations of chambers of commerce and establishing a joint business council.
Andreas Louroutziatis, vice-president of the Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, said, "We want to take practical steps to promote cooperation and establish permanent channels of communication." He added that "the aim of the visit is to exchange ideas on ways to strengthen our relationship with Egyptian businessmen."
The volume of trade between Egypt and Cyprus rose from $14.3 million in 1995 to $30.2 million in 1998.
During the visit, it was agreed that a protocol on commercial cooperation between Egypt and Cyprus would be signed in May.
Ibrahim Fawzi, chairman of the General Authority for Investment (GAFI), gave the delegation an overview of the facilities offered by the government to encourage foreign investments.
The Danish delegation was headed by State Secretary Ellen Margrethe Loj, an ambassador and head of South Group at the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Loj said that Egypt is a key player in the Middle East both politically and economically, adding that the Egyptian economy has witnessed a remarkable transformation by achieving sustainable economic development.
"Denmark will offer assistance to Egypt to deal with poverty, unemployment, education and upgrading women's role in political life," she said.
At a seminar attended by the Danish delegation, Minister of Economy Youssef Boutros Ghali said that the Egyptian government follows certain principles in its economic activities including transparency, predictability, collective action and accountability.
"In Egypt, foreign investors are treated even better than Egyptian investors because they are considered part of our community," Ghali said.
He added that no one can deny that foreign investors might face some difficulties, but should this happen, they will find a listening ear from officials who will try to solve their problems. Ghali admitted that some bureaucratic procedures still exist in Egypt, but he said that no country can get rid of bureaucracy completely.
According to Ghali, the main challenges facing the Egyptian economy at the moment are increasing exports and opening new markets for Egyptian products.
Johannes Oestergaard, a member of the Danish delegation, said that one of the problems that hinder foreign investments in Egypt is the issuing of sudden decrees by the government. Oestergaard gave as an example the government decree issued last November forbidding the import of cars except in the year of production. From his point of view, this sudden decree might negatively affect a foreign investor's business. He also emphasised that foreign investors should be very careful in choosing the sector in which they plan to invest.