Reaping dividends of Mid East peace

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 July, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 July, 1994, 12:00am

RENOWNED for its magnificent landmarks, Egypt is also a haven of peace and stability in the Middle East. In recent times, Egypt pioneered efforts to reconcile Israel and the Arab world.

Developments in the Middle East explain the crucial role of Egypt in the region's peace and stability.

Since Israel was established in 1948, the Middle East has witnessed a long period of conflict and war. These conflicts harmed the region's economies.

Egypt realised the economic damage that this caused and became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Since then, Egypt has worked tirelessly to convince the Arab world of the need to end the fighting for the sake of all Arab and Israeli people.

Egypt's efforts were rewarded when the main adversaries, the Israelis and Palestinians, signed the Gaza-Jericho agreement in Cairo.

Egypt's insistence on peace evolves from its deep concern over the economic plans it has for the Middle East.

Egypt's role as a peacemaker has helped the government's economic reforms. A good example of this is debt write-offs by the international community. In addition, Egypt has been granted quota-free trade access to European and American markets.

Well aware of these advantages, Egypt has moved to further liberalise its economy.

Several free zones were established to attract local and foreign investors. These zones provide generous tax incentives.

In the past few months, customs tariffs have been reduced 10 per cent to a maximum of 60 per cent. The maximum had been 70 per cent.

In another major development, the state-controlled cotton trade was liberalised and the Egyptian Cotton Stock Exchange was set up in Alexandria. This was another step in the privatisation process. Today, the private sector accounts for 60 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In international relations, Egypt's relations with China have strengthened. A few months ago, the President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, made a successful visit to China. During the visit, the two countries agreed to set up an Egypt-China industrial zone in Egypt.

Economic relations between Hong Kong and Egypt are confined to trade exchanges.

During my tenure, I hope to achieve a more stable relationship in economic co-operation and other areas of mutual interest between this beautiful city and Egypt.

Over the past few years, Egypt's industrial base has undergone a revolution. This has led to a diversification in manufacturing and remarkable improvements in quality. This, in turn, has led to improved exports to international markets.

Hong Kong imports a range of commodities from many countries. Most of these could be imported from Egypt at competitive prices. They include ready-made garments, leather, furniture, household goods, carpets and rugs, ceramics, bathroom fixtures, paint, chemicals, food products and may other items.

Egypt and China have a lot in common, besides taking pride in having the world's oldest civilisations. Each has made enormous contributions to humanity. By joining hands, the two nations can work for their common interest and mutual benefit.