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Egypt beefs up ties with China with landmark projects

Updated: Jun 4,2015 7:37 AM     Xinhua

CAIRO — The bilateral ties between Egypt and China have been further materialized amid rising economic cooperation between the countries.

Over the past few weeks, the most populous Arab country has seen vivid presence of Chinese companies cooperating with the Egyptian government in various infrastructure projects.

Egypt is aspiring for economic growth after four years of political turmoil that witnessed the ouster of ex-President Hosni Mubarak and former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

“China is ready to support Egypt’s efforts to maintain stability and growth as the nation strives to find a development path that fits its own conditions,” Yang Jiechi, China’s state councilor, said on June 1 during a two-day official visit to Cairo, where he met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.

For his part, the Egyptian leader said that Cairo is keen on keeping up high-level exchange visits with China and strengthening its cooperation with the Chinese side in infrastructure, agriculture, education and culture, as well as bilateral coordination in global and regional affairs.

KEEN ON “BELT AND ROAD” INITIATIVE

President Sisi signed a joint agreement with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to elevate Egypt-China bilateral ties to the level of “comprehensive strategic partnership”during his official visit to Beijing in late December.

Noted by Xi as “an important milestone,” Sisi’s visit to Beijing six months after taking office also marked the two presidents’ commitment to boost economic, political and cultural cooperation between the two countries.

Sisi hailed Xi’s initiative on building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, known as the “Belt and Road” initiative, pledging that Egypt will be an active part of the proposal.

During the sixth ministerial conference of China-Arab Cooperation Forum held in Beijing last June, Xi explained that the initiative includes Chinese cooperation with Arab states in the fields of energy, infrastructure, trade and investment, technology and others.

On the other hand, in a recent economic summit in Egypt, Sisi made it clear that China is among the “advanced countries” Egypt counts on for economic development.

BLOOMING ECONOMIC COOPERATION

China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi said in Cairo that China is keen to join Egypt in boosting pragmatic cooperation by centering around the “Belt and Road” initiative with a focus on infrastructure and industrial capacity.

President Sisi said during talks with Yang that China plays an important role in infrastructure, energy and housing projects in Egypt, commending the current level of economic and political cooperation between Cairo and Beijing.

Sisi witnessed in late May the inauguration of Alexandria Shipyard Company after the renovation project carried out by the Chinese State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) was completed.

Hailed by Sisi, the project makes the Alexandria-based state-owned ship manufacture and maintenance company the largest with the most up-to-date equipments in Africa, raising its production capacity to 230,000 dwt.

“This huge accomplishment was done in cooperation with the CSSC, which we would like to thank and express our appreciation for all the cooperation and commitment it has provided for us,” Gen. Ibrahim al-Desouki, head of the Egyptian military’s Naval Industries and Services Apparatus, said in his speech.

Labeled as a landmark project of Chinese-Egyptian friendship, the 33-month project symbolizes key strategic cooperation, especially that Sisi said the Alexandria Shipyard is under military control for security reasons and due to its strategic significance.

“Mega China companies are keen on doing business in Egypt, given its stability and the recent growth of its economy,” said CSSC Vice President Wu Yongjie during the Alexandria Shipyard inauguration ceremony.

A few days earlier, on May 25, the Egyptian Housing Ministry and a Chinese leading corporation signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to provide sanitation for 260 villages in four Egyptian provinces.

“This project is so important because it serves a very large number of citizens amounting to millions,” the Egyptian Housing Minister told Xinhua following the MoU signing with China Gezhouba Group Company Ltd.

“As the Egyptian government, we are looking forward to increasing cooperation with China so largely, and we hope that we activate the thought that we are a strategic partner with China in the coming stage,” the minister added.

The intended one-billion-dollar-worth project is expected to mark a new horizon in China’s investment projects in Egypt, as it is one of those labeled by the Egyptian government as “national projects.”

“We will work with the Egyptian government to built 220 sewage plants, with the purpose of improving the quality of drinking water in the rural areas around the two important Nile River branches in Egypt,” Luo Fei, general manager of Cairo-based branch of China Gezhouba Group Company Ltd., told Xinhua.

“The door for Chinese-Egyptian cooperation has opened now,” he concluded.

FUTURE OPPOUTUNITIES

In line with the development plans of Egypt after four years of chaos, China’s Belt and Road initiative has opened a new chapter for bilateral relations between the two powers.

Egypt is almost done with the huge national project of the Suez Canal waterway expansion and is now preparing for its inauguration and opening for ship navigation in August, as per Sisi’s instructions.

The development of the Suez Canal surrounding corridor is expected to include huge projects like the establishment of an industrial city along with hundreds of factories.

“Egypt will benefit from the Silk Road revival project, especially that the expansion of the Suez Canal will shorten the time of ship and trade traffic in the canal,” said Gamal Bayoumi, head of the Arab Investors Union and also official at the Egypt’s International Cooperation Ministry.

He added that the Chinese firms have great opportunities to invest in ship service projects on the banks of the Suez Canal after its expansion, in addition to other textile and foodstuff projects.

“There are no limits for Chinese companies to invest in Egypt and there is no ceiling for cooperation with China,” Bayoumi told Xinhua in a recent interview, inviting Chinese firms to come along and form a leading investment power in Egypt.

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