Belarus and Egypt agreed to advance bilateral trade and economic cooperation to a brand-new level. This is the result of the talks of Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko and Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Minsk on 18 June.
In line with the protocol, the meeting was preceded by the official welcoming ceremony of the heads of state. After the anthems were performed, the presidents welcomed the delegation members. The ceremony was followed by a photo opportunity.
During the one-on-one meeting the Belarusian leader remarked that the trade and economic cooperation between Belarus and Egypt has had a good start, but there is a big potential for development. “We outlined a plan of action during my visit in 2017. We have done a lot for the success of our efforts and have doubled bilateral trade. We used to have about $50 million, now we have more than $100 million. This is a good start, but there is more to come in the future,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The head of state emphasized that Belarus was waiting for the official visit of the Egyptian President and was making preparations for it because it has historical importance for the bilateral relations. “To say that we appreciate your visit is to say nothing,” he said. “This is the first visit of a President of a gigantic African country to Belarus.”
Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that it is rather difficult to arrange large-scale relations between states in a modern era – markets are occupied, there is certain inertness, countries have stable partners. “Everything was not easy. However, we managed to overcome all these difficulties. In a past couple of years we managed to find a way to progress,” the President said. “I want to assure you that the Belarusian side, my colleagues and I will fulfill all our promises on time.”
“There are absolutely no problems between our states. There are no closed topics for discussion. It is important that we have stepped up efforts to transform friendly political relations into versatile and mutually beneficial economic cooperation. And today we have tangible results and serious progress in this area,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
During the broader negotiations that involved top officials from both sides the Belarusian President spoke about promising avenues of bilateral cooperation.
The President emphasized that Belarus draws much attention to the development of friendly ties with Egypt and views this country as an important partner in the Middle East and Africa. “The Belarusian side appreciates an increasing role of Egypt in Africa, and the fact that your country was elected to preside in the African Union is a testimony to that,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He also congratulated Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Egyptian people on successful political transformations and praised Egypt’s achieves in the social and economic stabilization, fight against international terrorism.
“We see and understand what is going on around Egypt and in the region. We know that the region is destabilized from Afghanistan to Sudan or even further. But you managed to curb negative processes, support the country. And I am very happy that you have coped with problems and stepped on the way of stable development. This is important not only for us and your friends, it is important for the entire region of the Middle East and Africa. Egypt is a huge country with a 100-million-strong population, and the processes which are going on in your country are very important for the whole world,” the President concluded.
Speaking about the trade cooperation, the head of state remarked that Belarus-Egypt trade turnover had doubled in the past two years. However, the figure does not live up to the available potential. “We can do so much more. We have all the capabilities to secure higher figures,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
In his words, during restricted-attendance negotiations the sides agreed to dismantle trade barriers. “Belarus and Egypt will take steps to remove any barriers standing in the way of trade and economic cooperation. We would like Belarusians as your reliable friends and partners to have a clear structure and a system, a procedure for registering suppliers of merchandise to Egypt,” the head of state added.
The President noted that in order to increase the output of joint manufacturing enterprises, the Egyptian government has to enable equal conditions for participation in tenders, for placing government orders for products made within the framework of joint projects, and the enterprises need financial assistance. “On our part we will do the same things we’ve agreed on with the President,” Aleksandr Lukashenko assured.
The Belarusian side intends to create a product together with Egypt and work together to sell it, including on foreign markets. “It will allow your country to increase export. Such an approach is profitable both for Minsk and Cairo,” the President stressed. He added that Belarus is in favor of free movement of goods and supports Egypt’s proposal to sign an agreement on a free trade zone between Egypt and the Eurasian Economic Union.
The President stressed that Belarus is ready to share its own industrial technologies with Egypt. We’ve agreed we will switch to more up-to-date and versatile economic relations. The work is already in progress. Simple merchandise trade is not what we want today. A project-based approach has been chosen as the main method of our interaction,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The head of state noted that a well-developed manufacturing sector is one of the strong points of the Belarusian economy and the country is ready to share its own industrial technologies with Egyptian partners. “There are no closed topics. We are ready to carry over to Egypt everything we can. You can count on us in this regard,” the President stressed.
A joint project to make MAZ automobiles was previously launched in Cairo in line with Belarus-Egypt agreements. As many as 72 vehicles were made in 2018. “It is a good beginning. It is important to support manufacturing with orders from the Egyptian government at this stage of the evolution of the enterprise. It is necessary to give it an opportunity to grow larger and put together a portfolio of orders on its own. In order to earn profits steadily, the factory has to make at least 350-400 vehicles per annum,” Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out. “In turn, we will also provide support to this company. You and I have agreed to do it.”
A multipurpose assembly enterprise in the Egyptian city of Alexandria is increasing the output of MTZ tractors. Assembly lines to make loaders and agricultural machines have been set up in Cairo. “We’ve made specialists of the Egyptian Defense Ministry familiar with Belarusian experience. We’ve transferred individual technologies for creating greenhouse complexes, meat and dairy farms, for making baby food, rye bread, for growing vegetables in greenhouses. If you desire to use Belarusian experience, we are ready to take part in your projects,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized.
He remarked that Egypt is working hard to implement a national program to create greenhouse complexes and needs proper machines and vehicles for it. “We’ve already made a test batch of compact tractors for industrial greenhouses. We could make them together at the joint venture in Alexandria,” the head of state suggested.
The Belarusian side is also ready to work together with Egyptian companies to make passenger vehicles, including electric buses and trams, diesel engines, lifts, grain storage facilities, and utility vehicles.
“In addition to stepping up cooperation in traditional spheres of cooperation I suggest carrying out joint R&D projects and implementing projects in the area of high technologies. Our academies of sciences are already working on implementing joint projects. We expect that results of this work will find practical applications in the manufacturing sector and agriculture of Belarus and Egypt soon,” the President said. Besides, Belarus suggested to Egypt projects in the area of digital government, digital transformation, cybersecurity, and video games.
Education has been named a priority avenue of bilateral cooperation. Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that education is mostly about the youth and its abilities and talents in sports and creativity, and about promotion of a healthy lifestyle.
“Our country has a great potential in education. It trains specialists that are in high demand in the economic sector. At present, merely 20 Egyptian nationals undergo training in Belarus. We have offered educational grants to Egyptian nationals to study at Belarusian higher learning institutions. This is just the beginning. We would like to see a great number of young Egyptians who want to get up-to-date education and training in Belarus,” the head of state said. Youth policy is high on the agenda in Egypt; young people account for 60% of the country’s population. All of them want to have good education and work, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.
He welcomed the initiative of the Egyptian President to hold the annual World Youth Forum in Egypt where Belarus takes an active part. “We will do our best to facilitate contacts between the youth of Egypt and Belarus,” the head of state emphasized. Aleksandr Lukashenko confirmed his invitation for a group of Egyptian teenagers to come to Belarus for summer holidays in August 2019.
“Tourism has an important role in promoting friendly relations between our nations. We discussed this matter in Cairo two years ago. Over the past two years, the tourist flow from Belarus to Egypt has surged more than four times. We want to see more Egyptians in Belarus, too. As you have said today, Belarus has many things to offer to Egyptian tourists. We will make sure that vacations in Belarus will be a great experience for Egyptian nationals,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
He noted that Belarus and Egypt have rich cultural and historical heritage. “We are interested in sharing best practices in his field. We are ready to arrange exchange programs for museum specialists, archeologists, and restoration artists. We will be happy to hold the Days of Egyptian Culture here,” the President added.
Egypt is ready to expand cooperation with Belarus in all areas and to continue implementing joint projects, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said. He drew attention to the special nature of relations between the two countries that received an additional boost during the visit of the Belarusian leader to Egypt in 2017. “I want to reiterate that we are very keen to continue developing bilateral relations between our countries in all areas, in all avenues. We are willing to implement all projects that we talked about during your visit and during the current visit,” the Egypt President said.
After the talks the sides signed a package of documents in the presence of the two leaders. Belarus and Egypt signed comprehensive program (roadmap) to guide the advancement of Belarus-Egypt cooperation in 2019-2020. In addition to the roadmap a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the area of youth policy between the Belarusian Education Ministry and the Egyptian Youth and Sports Ministry was signed.
The sides agreed to set up a business cooperation council by signing a memorandum between the Belarusian Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade Ministry and the Egyptian Trade and Industry Ministry. Apart from that, an agreement was reached on cooperation in the area of standardization, with a memorandum signed between the relevant government agencies.
The joint statement which was signed by Aleksandr Lukashenko and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi reads that Belarus and Egypt are committed to strengthening international peace and stability, preventing the manifestations of terrorism and extremism which pose a serious threat to global and regional security.
The sides agreed to expand cooperation in such industries as information and communication technologies, space and aviation technologies, nanomaterials, molecular genetics, metal technology, pharmaceutics, optics. It is also planned to step up cooperation in education, In particular, it is essential to raise the inflow of Egyptian students to Belarus, create joint university departments, send Belarusian students to learn the Arabic language at Egyptian universities.
At the meeting with mass media representatives the Belarusian President described the results of the talks with the Egypt President as fruitful. He said that the parties discussed the modern geopolitical situation, noting the similarity of approaches to the key issues on the international agenda. “Our country seeks to strengthen relations with the official Cairo based on the principles of equality, mutual respect and trust. We have built our relations without any preconditions. We have no complaints whatsoever towards our Egyptian friends,” the Belarusian leader noted.
During the talks Aleksandr Lukashenko and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi focused on trade and economic relations, analyzed the execution of instructions and implementation of joint projects. “I can say with confidence that our agreements are being fulfilled. Both the Belarusian and Egyptian agencies are doing their best to implement the plans,” the President said. He stressed that Belarus and Egypt are launching a new phase of cooperation with the current visit of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Minsk.
Aleksandr Lukashenko added that Belarus is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union. Egypt is a member of many integration associations, first of all, in Africa. “We can offer a lot of things to this region. Therefore, it is essential to join efforts and make joint products for Africa and Eurasia,” the President believes.
In his words, the countries have recently launched a number of joint projects in the manufacture of automobile equipment, tractors, loaders, farming equipment, grain storage facilities, greenhouses. Belarusian and Egyptian scientists cooperate in nanotechnology, molecular genetics, metal technology, space technologies.
“We hope that the results of this joint work will be soon applied in the manufacturing industry, agricultural industry, security in Belarus and Egypt, the President said. “We shared experience of building high-tech greenhouses, production of baby food and rye bread, waste management, manufacture of unmanned aerial vehicles, introduction of e-government.”
Egyptian experts also familiarized themselves with Belarusian technological solutions against cyber threats and for the maintenance of security during mass events, including as part of the preparations for the 2nd European Games. Belarusian specialists held training courses in design and furniture production for their Egyptian colleagues.
“All that was done within slightly more than 2 years. I am convinced that if we continue moving forward so quickly and resolutely, we will launch even more joint projects in manufacturing, agriculture, science, education and security in the near future,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The presidents of Belarus and Egypt agreed that the countries will continue enhancing political relations, expanding cooperation in international organization, developing the Belarusian-Egyptian trade and economic cooperation and advancing it to a brand-new level.
After the talks and the signing of bilateral documents Aleksandr Lukashenko awarded Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi with the Order of Friendship of Peoples in recognition of a big personal contribution to the development of bilateral relations between Belarus and Egypt, strengthening of peace, consolidation of the society and unity of peoples.
“Belarusian people are very tolerant, calm and hardworking. They have profound respect for Egyptian people. Our friendship may not have its roots in those ancient times when the civilization emerged in Egypt. However, it has very good roots,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked. “The Soviet Union and Egypt always had very good relations, and we are the heirs of those good traditions.”
The head of state said that he had worked with different Egyptian leaders, but truly warm and kind relations between the two nations were built during the presidency of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. “I want to thank you for this sincerity and responsibility in our relations. We have laid a solid foundation of friendship between our peoples,” the Belarusian leader stressed.
The President of Egypt thanked for the award and a warm welcome in Belarus. He said that the Egyptian side will do its best to fulfill all agreements and implement all projects. “This is my first visit to your wonderful country, and I assure you that this will not be the last visit,” he said.
After the meeting Aleksandr Lukashenko and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi planted a tree on the Alley of Distinguished Guests near the Palace of Independence in Minsk.