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Interview of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus to the Arab Republic of Egypt Sergei Rachkov to the Middle East News Agency (November 26, 2018, Cairo)

Would you please assess the level of bilateral relations and exchange of visits between both countries?
Belarus regards Egypt as the most important partner in the Middle East and in Africa and pays keen attention to the development of friendly relations with Egypt.
We highly appreciate the active and serious approach of the Egyptian side to the implementation of the agreements reached during the visit of the Belarusian President to Cairo in January 2017.
We are satisfied with the dynamics of contacts, openness and constructive approach of the Egyptian colleagues.
Over the past two years, we have been able, through the efforts of both countries, to significantly intensify cooperation on all issues of mutual interest. In 2017 and 2018, over 75 high-level and expert-level mutual visits were organized between Belarus and Egypt. Ministers of industry, communication, agriculture, natural resources and environmental protection, as well as delegations of the ministries of transport, the Central Bank, the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, the leadership and specialists of a number of Belarusian industrial enterprises visited Cairo. At the same time the ministers of foreign affairs, trade and industry, transport, Speaker of the House of Representatives, the minister of state for military production, representatives from the Egyptian enterprises and business community visited Minsk.
There are no issues that are closed for discussion in relations between Belarus and Egypt. We are ready to cooperate in all areas of mutual interest.

Would you please shed light on the recent developments of economic and trade cooperation between Egypt and Belarus? Please provide recent figures. What are fields of interest for the Belarusian side to cooperate with the Egyptian side?
As you know, the emphasis of bilateral relations was placed on trade and economic cooperation. The growth of volume of bilateral trade is by all means facilitated by mutual visits at the highest and high level. In particular, in 2017 following the visit of the president of Belarus to Egypt, bilateral trade increased by 68.5% compared to 2016. In the period from January to September 2018 bilateral trade turnover reached $79m, which is 25.8% more than within the same period of last year. We hope that by the end of 2018 the volume of our bilateral trade will exceed $100m.
Belarus exports to Egypt tractors, trucks, tires, metal products, optical goods, pumps, X-ray equipment, petrochemical and woodworking products.
The main imports from Egypt are citrus fruit, fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruits, medicines, plants used in perfumery and pharmaceuticals, tea and coffee, clothes, and textiles.
We note the appearance of such industrial products as household electric heaters, electric stoves, lighting equipment, plastic products, paints and varnishes, furniture in the structure of Egyptian exports to Belarus, which demonstrates the growth of Egypt's industrial potential and diversification of its exports thanks to the efforts undertaken by the Egyptian Government in this direction.
In bilateral economic ties the central focus is placed on industrial cooperation. The implementation of joint projects in the field of industry has already begun. The Belarusian side is interested in deepening cooperation with the enterprises of Egypt in order to successfully implement the projects “Egyptian truck”, “Egyptian tractor”, “Egyptian diesel engine”, “Egyptian harvester”, “Egyptian agricultural equipment”, “Egyptian refrigerator compressor”, “Egyptian bus”, “Egyptian electric bus”, “Egyptian drone”, which provide for the creation of joint production of this equipment in Egypt using the Belarusian experience and technology with a maximum level of localization.
The interaction between the two countries also takes place in such promising areas as woodworking, petrochemicals, information and communication technologies, science and education.

Would you please brief on the agenda of meeting of the upcoming the Egyptian – Belarusian joint commission? Do you expect to sign agreements?
The fifth meeting of the Belarusian-Egyptian Joint Trade Commission will take place under the leadership of Minister of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade of the Republic of Belarus Vladimir Koltovich and Minister of Industry and Trade Amr Nassar in Cairo on November 28-29, 2018.
We attach great importance to the upcoming bilateral event. The Belarusian delegation at the meeting of the Joint Commission will consist of 28 officials, including First Deputy Minister of Communication, Deputy Minister of Industry, Deputy Chairman of the National Academy of Sciences, Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
During the meeting of the Joint Commission the Belarusian and Egyptian representatives will discuss the development of bilateral cooperation in the following areas: trade and investment, industry, agriculture, petrochemicals, transport, finance, information and communications technologies, woodworking, energy, science and research, education, environmental protection, sports and tourism, health and culture.
Within the framework of the meeting of the commission the second session of the joint working group on industrial cooperation will be held under the auspices of deputy ministers for industry.
Minister of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade of the Republic of Belarus – Co-chairmen of the Joint Commission Mr. Vladimir Koltovich will meet with the Prime Minister – Minister of Housing and Utilities and Urban Development of the Arab Republic of Egypt Dr. Mostafa Madbouli. He will also participate in the round table meeting with the heads of the largest Egyptian companies. The other high ranking members of the Belarusian delegation will have talks in the ministries of communication and technology, military production, industry and trade, academy of scientific research and technology, chamber of food, etc.
We expect to sign a Programme (Road Map) on development of cooperation between Belarus and Egypt in 2019, MoUs on cooperation in the field of standardization and quality of goods, as well as on joint production of loaders and other equipment in Egypt.

How you view the current investment climate in Egypt in light of the reforms adopted by the Egyptian government? Are you interested in contributing in the Suez Canal corridor project? What are your plans for joint investments with Egypt?
The New Investment Law of Egypt, which was adopted in June 2017, provided additional guarantees for foreign investors and opened new opportunities of working in Egypt. The Comprehensive Investment Map, as well as the Industrial Investment Map developed by the Egyptian authorities provide an opportunity to be familiar with investment projects of all the regions of the country. In my opinion, in particular there is a considerable investment potential in the fields of industrial development, agriculture, water resources, mining, construction, tourism.
We received invitation to participate in the Suez Canal corridor project, in particular to join Russian Industrial Zone, and we consider this opportunity.
The Belarusian side supports efforts aimed at the preparation of a Free Trade Agreement between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Eurasian Economic Union given that Belarus is a member of this Union. We hope that the negotiation process on the Agreement will start by the end of this year.
Belarus believes that the Egyptian side will remove a number of barriers that are still present in bilateral trade. In particular, we hope to accelerate the registration of a number of Belarusian enterprises and their trademarks under the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Health of Egypt. Granting Belarusians visas upon arrival at the Cairo international airport will accelerate business contacts and cooperation.

Please brief me on the preparations for the upcoming visit of President of Egypt Abdel Fatakh El Sisi to Minsk?
The Belarusian side will be happy to receive the President of Egypt in the Republic of Belarus in 2019.
The visit of the Egyptian President to Minsk will be a highly important political event in Belarus – Egypt relations. It will be the first visit of the President of Egypt to the Republic of Belarus in the history of bilateral relations.
The Belarusian side will prepare an intensive and diversified programme of the visit for the Head of the Egyptian State in order to demonstrate the serious potential of Belarus as an important and reliable partner of Egypt in the region of Eastern Europe.

Would you please provide with recent figures on tourist influx coming from Belarus and your expectations for the coming year?
At that moment I can share with you only the results of the previous year. In 2017, according to the official statistics, a record number of Belarusian citizens –123,000 people – visited Egypt. It is three times more than in 2016. But I think that the real figure is even higher, as some Belarusian citizens choose to fly to Egyptian resorts using airlines of other countries, which get additional preferences from the Egyptian authorities according to aviation incentive programme. Egypt has become the second international destination for Belarusian tourists, although a few years ago it took only the fifth position .
We expect that the year 2018 will show even better results than the record-breaking 2017.
In order to increase the tourist flow between Belarus and Egypt in both directions we plan to organize the Days of Minsk Governorate in Sharm El Sheikh and Sport Weeks of Belarus in Egypt in 2019, as well as to invite the Minister of tourism of Egypt to visit Belarus as the head of the Egyptian delegation to participate in «Leisure – 2019» forum and exhibition.