A Joint Symposium on Economic and Investment Cooperation between Egypt and the States Members in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)
The Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA), in cooperation with the Ambassadors Committee of States Members in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Cairo, has organized a Symposium on raising awareness of ASEAN and discussing economic and investment cooperation prospects between Egypt and these States. The Symposium was held on the 4th of June 2016, at the Diplomatic Club in Cairo.
It was attended by H.E. Ambassador Abdel-Raouf Al-Reedy, ECFA Honorary Chairman, H.E. Ambassador Mounir Zahran, ECFA Chairman, Dr. Ahmad Ad-Darsh, Chairman of the Egyptian Council for Economic Affairs (ECEA), H.E. Leslie J. Baja, Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to Egypt in Cairo and Chairman of the Ambassadors Committee of the States Members in ASEAN in Cairo, and H.E. Do Hoang Long, Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in Cairo, alongside side with several ECFA Board Members, specialist researchers, and Ambassadors of some ASEAN Member States in Cairo.
Focus of discussions revolved around four main themes, namely: (i) ways of strengthening economic relations between Egypt and ASEAN; (ii) opportunities and challenges facing trade and investment between Egypt and ASEAN; (iii) investment frameworks and areas of futuristic cooperation between Egypt and ASEAN; and (iv) the Cultural Dimension in Egypt’s relations with ASEAN Member States.
ECFA Chairman, H.E. Ambassador Mounir Zahran, opened the Symposium by a speech, in which he reviewed the Articles of the TREATY OF AMITY AND COOPERATION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, signed in 1976, and the principles emphasized in ARTICLE 2 thereof, namely: the need for “a. Mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity of all nations; b. The right of every State to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion or coercion; c. Non-interference in the internal affairs of one another; d. Settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful means; e. Renunciation of the threat or use of force; f. Effective cooperation among themselves,” inspired by the principles inherited from the founding fathers of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) States to strengthen cooperation, especially after gaining observer status in the ASEAN in 2013.
H.E. Ambassador Zahran also stressed the need to benefit from ASEAN’s three pillars (Political, Economic & Socio- Cultural), especially the Economic one, and expressed the hope to come up with recommendations that will help benefiting from advantages available to the parties, i.e. Civil Society Organizations, Businessmen and Governments of both sides.
ECEA Chairman, Dr. Ahmad Ad-Darsh, expressed his contentment for choosing the topic of the Symposium, especially as it comes within the context of “Egypt 2030”, a strategic vision launched by Egypt, following scientific methodology and accuracy in defining its advantages and objectives, adopting long-term strategic planning based on community participation, and depending on the approach of effective engagement with all international development partners and civil society, and ensuring that national development goals are consistent with those that are internationally recognized.
He also stressed that this vision is in line with the ASEAN Economic Group’s “Vision 2025”, launched in Kuala Lumpur, in which it stressed the importance of expanding ties amongst ASEAN Member States themselves, and with ASEAN Member States and their partners in the Middle East and Africa.
H.E. Leslie J. Baja, Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines in Cairo and Chairman of Ambassadors Committee of States Members in ASEAN in Cairo, emphasized that the importance of the Symposium stems from its emphasis on economic aspects and areas of cooperation between ASEAN and the region of Africa and Middle East, especially with the resources that Egypt owns and the strategic geographic location it occupies, pointing out that the aim of the Symposium is to strengthen economic ties by reviewing available opportunities and exploring means of overcoming challenges facing investment sectors of both sides, stressing that ASEAN Member States are working to provide societal protection and to apply international standards in this regard.
H.E. Do Hoang Long, Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in Cairo, explained that the sustainable development pursued by the ASEAN Member States, announced in its ASEAN “Vision 2020” and its “Economic Vision 2025”, requires the strengthening of strategic partnerships with partners in the world and in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in particular, noting that Vietnam is of the opinion that this should be achieved relying on the basic pillars of the ASEAN Member States, and work should be done to achieve those objectives more effectively.
First Session: “Ways to Strengthen Economic Relations between Egypt and ASEAN”
Speakers during this session included, H.E. Ambassador Mamdouh Mustafa, Minister Plenipotentiary and First Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Trade & Industry, H.E. Ambassador Yasir An-Najjar, First Assistant to the Minister of Planning, H.E. Peerasak Chantavarin, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to Cairo, and Advisor Osama Tharwat, Director of ASEAN Affairs at Foreign Ministry and Ex-Director of Egyptian Commercial Representation Service.
In their speeches, the speakers put an emphasis on several points including:
– Trade volume between the two sides does not exceed US$2.6 billion (2014), which is an extremely low figure, as it has a potential to grow, especially since Egyptian exports, to all ASEAN Member States, do not exceed US$600 million.
– The relationship between Egypt and ASEAN Member States is lacking a plan for future dealings, and in view of Egypt and ASEAN Member States launching of future visions for development, work should be done to enhance opportunities for exchanging experiences between Egypt and these States, and establishing a framework for that.
– 90 % of the ASEAN Member States’ relations are directed to Asian States, hence, Egypt is obliged to strengthen its relations with these States, especially the Asian States, by working to increase Egyptian exports to those States, with a view to, at least, strike a balance in the commercial trade volume.
– Both Egypt and ASEAN Member States enjoy strategic locations and capabilities. Moreover, Egypt is a member in several significant economic blocs such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and plays a key role in bringing security and stability to the region, in a way that qualifies it to establish a partnership with ASEAN, and enables it to pave the way towards getting the status of a ‘dialogue partner’.
– Work on establishing a Business Council that brings together Egypt and the ten ASEAN Member States, including a group of Egyptian experts specialized in Asian relations.
III. Second Session: “Opportunities and Challenges Facing Trade and Investment between Egypt and ASEAN”
Speakers during this Session included: Mr. Ashraf Naguib, ASIA-EGYPT Business Association Secretary-General and Board Member, H.E. Ambassador Ali El-Hefni, ECFA Permanent Committee for Asian Affairs Rapporteur, Dr. Adel Khalil, ECEA Vice-Chairman, and H.E. Dato’ Ku Jaafar Ku Shaari, Ambassador of Malaysia to Egypt in Cairo. During the Session, several points were emphasized, including:
– The need for concerned Egyptian authorities to take into account the index issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF) related to the ranking of on Egypt in the Worldwide Governance Index (WGI), which will have an impact on investment rates.
– The need to work on developing the exporting sector, so that investors from both sides could benefit from the preferential treatment and advantages granted, which will lead to developing the business sector substantially, and enhancing the tourism sector by boosting air traffic movement between the two sides.
– The importance for both of Egypt and ASEAN Member States to benefit from their membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), and consequently to abide by same policies and regulations related to trade and investment sectors, as well as the importance of working to provide information and be transparent with regard to investors and attracting investments.
– With its major development projects along the Suez Canal Region, and the discoveries in the domain of energy and gas, Egypt could, be a gateway for investors from ASEAN Member States, and a hub for financial cooperation with those States.
– The need for Egypt to benefit from the experiences of Asian partners in its developmental renaissance.
Third Session: “Investment Frameworks and Areas of Futuristic Cooperation between Egypt and the ASEAN”
Speakers during this Session included: H.E. Ambassador Dr. Magda Shahin, Director of Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR), School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (SGAPP), the American University in Cairo (AUC), H.E. Ambassador Jamal Bayoumi, Secretary- General of the Arab Investors Union (AIU), H.E. Premjith Sadasivan, Ambassador of the Republic of Singapore in Cairo, and H.E. Ambassador Mounir Zahran. The speakers noted the following points:
– The need for a comprehensive framework that integrates cooperation, transparency and laws to encourage and protect investments, thereby attracting investors. That was the critical success factor in the ASEAN experience, which has clearly defined the relationship between investors and Governments of ASEAN Member States.
– The strategic vision of the ASEAN Member States, is characterized by four essential elements: emancipation, non-discrimination, productivity, and mechanics of distribution, and those are the backbone of the Egyptian investment law.
– The need for Egypt to move forward in the logistics industry (sector) associated with the significant resources owned by the State, coupled with the importance of accelerating the establishment of a free trade zone that enjoys good governance and transparency, thus promoting exports and imports.
– The need to review the bilateral agreements that have been concluded since the 19950s, particularly those relating to the avoidance of double taxation, as well as those encouraging and protecting investments. Work should also be done to build on the experience of ASEAN Member States in establishing a nuclear-free zone, with a view to apply it in the Middle East Region.
Fourth Session: “The Cultural Dimension in Egypt’s Relations with the ASEAN Countries”
During this Session, H.E. Ambassador Abdel-Raouf El-Reedy, ECFA Honorary Chairman, delivered a speech, in which he clarified that the cultural dimension is of great significance in international relations. He also asserted the realization of Samuel Huntington’s prophecy that the coming war will be among civilizations and cultures, which is already the case with the advent of the current century. On the cultural component in Egypt’s relations with ASEAN Member States, he noted t
he convergence with regard to the system of values, customs and traditions. He added that Egypt has also been culturally interacting with ASEAN Member States for a very long time, especially those States with a Muslims component in their social fabric, noting in this regard, the role of Al-Azhar Ash-Shareef in the propagation of Islamic Culture in Asia for hundreds of years, through receiving academic missions and delegations of Asian scholars and students at Al-Azhar Institutes.
He concluded his speech by emphasizing that Clash of Civilizations and War of Cultures requires cooperation and coordination between Egypt and ASEAN Member States, in order to achieve the desired understanding and so that social justice and equality could prevail, especially that ASEAN Member States have experiences in coexistence among different cultures, a coexistence model that has contributed to the building of the State, its Economy and Culture.