“Our trade policy is more open than India’s” March 2018 issue

“Our trade policy is more open than India’s”

Mongy Badr, Minister Plenipotentiary (Commercial), Egypt | India’s relationship with Egypt is probably the best it has with any country in the Arab world. Despite this, trade between the two countries has barely hit the $5 billion mark and has been falling for the last two years. To figure out the reason(s) for this and understand the true potential of trade between the two nations, we caught up with Egypt’s Minister Counsellor in New Delhi, Mongy Badr Interview by Vanita Peter D’souza | The Dollar Business Egypt-Statue-TheDollarBusiness TDB: India-Egypt relations go back to the non-alignment movement days and even further back. How important is India in Egypt’s scheme of things?
Mongy-Badr-TheDollarBusiness Mongy Badr, Minister Plenipotentiary (Commercial), Embassy of Egypt in India
Mongy Badr (MB): India-Egypt relation is over 100-years old, but today it is controlled by business interests. We can never forget India. You are an old nation and you share a civilisation like Egypt. We have a lot in common, that’s why we appreciate the cooperation between the two countries. Our bilateral relation with India has many aspects such as trade, investment, politics, culture etc. The volume of trade between India and Egypt has already touched $5 billion and we are aiming to increase this to $8 billion by 2016. In fact, last month we had a joint trade committee meeting. During this committee meeting we discussed several mechanisms to develop bilateral relationship between the two countries, especially in the field of trade & commerce. But then why just trade? We want to go beyond and focus on IT, chemical and agro-industries. There is an industrial collaboration between India and Egypt with certain protocols, wherein India is going to set up training centres in Egypt, in order to train workers, especially in sectors like textile. We are also inviting India to increase trade. Indian products are of high quality and are very competitively priced. TDB: What do you think is the real potential of India-Egypt trade? What needs to be done to achieve this figure? MB: Our aim is to increase India-Egypt trade to $8 billion by 2016. In fact, according to me, this figure should be revised to $10 billion by 2018. This can be achieved by increasing the volume of trade. India imports items like oil, gas citrus, rock phosphate and vegetables, while on the other hand we import commercial automobiles, chemicals, rice, tea and meat. If we increase the volumes of these products in our bilateral trade, our targets can be easily achieved. But, that is not all. We also need to take care of our competitors. TDB: Trade between two countries has started falling after staying above $5 billion for two years. Was that an aberration or there’s something more to it? MB: Trade declined in the last two years because the production of natural gas and oil in Egypt was down. We expect, by 2015, production would go back to normal and will actually increase further. India has requested to import more oil and natural gas from Egypt. Hence, we will increase our production. Egyptian exports to India-TheDollarBusiness   TDB: Have the recent spate of violence in the Middle East affected Egyptian trade in any way? How is the Egyptian government trying to keep the country’s trade immune to such factors? MB: Egypt has reached a stable stage, but stability doesn’t mean the country has no problems. We have problems. It is normal. We have issues, but we have an army to control our borders. And it has not impacted our trade in any way. The business class is aware that there are opportunities in Egypt. Many industrialists want to set up their businesses in Egypt, including in the IT sector. I am sure, soon Egypt will compete with India. TDB: India’s main export to Egypt is frozen beef. What other goods should Indian exporters focus on if they want to tap the Egyptian market? MB: If India has a surplus, it can export. We have demand, so we import. You help us and we help you. Twenty years back, Egypt was importing tea from India, but lack of Indian supply of tea forced us to import from other suppliers. Today, we are again importing tea from India. We exported citrus fruits last season and we will do it again this season. All this is a function of demand. We are ready to import more from India under normal conditions of international trade, i.e., if there is demand and prices are competitive. The average import duty in Egypt is 6%, which is very low when compared to that of India. So, our trade policy is more open than India. India Egypt trade-TheDollarBusiness   TDB: What is your opinion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign, particularly considering it seems to have been pitched against China which is Egypt’s top source of imports? MB: I am aware of His Excellency Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. It is a very good campaign. We support and encourage it. It’s not competition. This campaign means India is going to produce high quality goods and Egyptian customers will benefit from it. They will consume high quality goods at competitive prices. This does not mean you will block imports. You’ll import what you don’t produce. You’ll import raw material. You will increase employment and create job opportunities for the younger generation. It is an excellent campaign. Moreover, India is marrying its private and public sector. This marriage will boost development. TDB: Despite being home to some of the world’s most beautiful tourist attractions, there’s a feeling that not a lot of Indian tourists visit Egypt. What’s your take on this? MB: When it comes to the tourism sector, we do not target all sections of the society. We target only those who travel. It is very easy for me to promote Egypt because lot of Indians have studied about ancient Egypt and are aware about our country. But in reality, it is different. Currently, we have direct flights between Mumbai and Cairo. By February, we will have another direct flight between New Delhi and Cairo. This will facilitate tourism. Secondly, we are also encouraging tourism companies to come to Egypt and buy competitive offers from hotels, transporters etc., which will further facilitate tourism.