India, Egypt finalise free trade, economic accord

April 15th, 2008 - 7:01 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) India and Egypt are planning to finalise an economic cooperation agreement which will include free trade in goods and services - a key step expected to give a quantum jump to their burgeoning business ties. “India and Egypt have set up a joint study group to finalise an economic cooperation agreement that will include free trade in goods and services,” Egyptian Minister of Foreign Trade and Industry Rashid Mohamed Rashid told reporters here Tuesday.

“There is an enormous potential for cooperation between India and Egypt not only bilaterally but also in third countries,” Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said at the press conference he addressed jointly with Rashid.

Kamal Nath asked Indian firms to scale up their investment in Egypt, which is an important gateway to the markets of Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

Lauding India’s economic transformation in the last decade or so, Rashid asked industrialists of both countries to seize this “great opportunity” to set new benchmarks in business ties.

“India is a great country. We have seen a very impressive transformation of India’s economy. Egypt too has gone through a massive transformation and attracted billions in foreign investment,” the Egyptian minister said.

The Indian business community is upbeat about burgeoning economic opportunities in Egypt, the country of pharaohs and pyramids that is rapidly modernising its economy and institutions.

Top Indian companies like Essar, Reliance and the Tata group are planning huge investments in Egypt worth an estimated $20 billion in areas ranging from oil and gas to plastics and fertilisers.

Soon after the trade minister’s visit, a big business delegation led by Aseem Ragab, head of Egyptian Investment Promotion Authority GAFI, will come here to network with Indian businessmen at an investment conclave April 18-20.

Egypt’s strategic location, which makes it a gateway to the 20-country Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the 27-nation European Union and the Arab Free Trade Area, has been a major magnet for globally ambitious Indian companies.

The burgeoning business ties have set the stage for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s first visit to India in a quarter century later this year.

Bilateral trade between India and Egypt touched $2.2 billion in 2006. The two countries have identified IT, oil and gas, agriculture and food processing as some of the key areas for closer collaboration.

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