Egyptian Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Hatem Saleh attended the opening of the Italian-Egyptian Business Council on Thursday, where business leaders from both countries partnered up to sign multi-million-euro deals in every sector.
"Italy is a strategic partner for us, as shown by President Morsi's decision to open his European tour with Rome after Brussels", Saleh told an audience of 80 Italian and Egyptian entrepreneurs. "The Egypt of the revolution is the Egypt of great economic opportunities, of youth, of social justice, of transparency and of the fight against corruption. We hope Italy will know how to take this opportunity".
With bilateral exchanges equal to 4 billion dollars and Italian investments in Egypt of 1.5 billion dollars, the two countries have reason to forge ties, and the council, co-presided by Khaled Abu Bakr and by Italian state railways managing director, Mauro Moretti, is one of the venues in which to do so.
On its opening day, investments totaling 785 million euros were made in sectors from professional training to agriculture, from renewable energy to tourism, from a packet to train young Egyptian artisans in Italy to a 100 million dollar investment in the banking sector. "In the first months of 2012, Italy slipped from being Egypt's third supplier to being its sixth supplier", said Riccardo Monti, president of the Italian Foreign Trade Commission (ICE). "We must regain our position, better yet, we must aim at second place. This business council must be used as a scouting venue".
Italian entrepreneurs must look for new outlets outside their traditional sectors of infrastructure, energy, engineering and marine transportation, Moretti told ANSAmed on council sidelines. "We need to capitalize on what each of our countries knows how to do best", Moretti said. This also means leather and textiles, and cooperation between small to medium businesses on both sides of the Mediterranean.
Italy has won the contract to modernize the Alexandria-Aswan railway, with work to begin in mid-2013, Moretti said. He outlined a great dream of Saleh's, which is to bring Egyptian industry back by creating "an entirely Italian industrial city in Egypt, made up of inter-connected industrial clusters", Moretti explained. "New possibilities to satisfy new needs have opened up after the revolution. We need an Italian industrial zone for small and medium businesses", Abu Bakr echoed.
Security remains an issue, especially in light of the recent wave of violence in the Egyptian capital and in other Arab countries. "The unrest will not be able to stop this new government's economic programs and Egyptian industry", Abu Bakr said.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is expected at the council's second session on Friday.