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Opportunities in China
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 15 - 11 - 2018

Egypt took part in the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai this month, with the six-day event also offering Egyptian exhibitors investment opportunities in the economic zones west of the Gulf of Suez, east of Port Said, and at various ports.
The CIIE, held under the title “New Era, Shared Future”, was inaugurated by Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this month, gathering businesses, purchasers, exhibitors and government officials.
Some 172 countries participated, along with more than 3,600 international companies and 400,000 importers at the event that filled over 270,000 square metres.
It is expected that China will import commodities and services worth more than $10 trillion in the coming five years, providing international companies with a chance to enter the huge Chinese market.
“It was important for Egypt to participate in the CIIE because the Chinese government has obliged its local companies to import a quarter of their commodities next year from countries and companies taking part in the CIIE,” said Ahmed Amin, deputy CEO for trade affairs and promotion at the Export Promotion Authority.
The expo comprised areas for different countries, with Egypt participating in the shape of the ministries of investment and trade and industry and the Suez Canal Authority.
Egypt's participation was meant to display the country's economic potential and market it as an investment destination, especially in special economic zones offering multiple incentives to investors, Mustafa Al-Zeini, head of the Suez Canal Special Economic Zone chairman's office, said.
The expo included commercial exhibitors in the shape of 38 Egyptian companies, including 22 in the agricultural sector. “The CIIE is a Chinese initiative to open its doors to imports. Over the past 10 years, China has sought to export and to open markets,” said Ashraf Mazen, export manager for Al-Borg for Food Industries, the owner of the Dream trademark.
There are hurdles to exporting to China, however, including the language barrier. Furthermore, “the Chinese can take a long time to register imported agricultural products,” Amin said. “However, our agricultural exports to China are increasing, by between 200 and 300 per cent for lemons and oranges over the past two years.”
Egypt's trade with China amounts to around $10 billion, according to 2017 figures from the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Of that sum, Egypt exports around $500 million worth of goods to China.
One product gaining popularity in the Chinese market is Egyptian fruit and vegetables. Mohsen Al-Beltagui, chairman of the Horticultural Export Improvement Association, said Egyptian producers of agricultural products had begun exporting to China three years ago, starting with 5,000 tons of oranges.
Now they export 120,000 tons, he said, adding that Egypt had also started exporting grapes to China last year after the country lifted a ban on imports. Egypt now exports 120,000 tons of grapes, Al-Beltagui said, and focused on exporting dates.
Hurdles to exporting to China include transportation, as it can take 45 days to transport oranges and grapes. This long duration may not affect oranges, but grapes need to be transported in less time.
“If China really opens its doors further to imports, we can export pomegranates, onions and potatoes as well. Egypt produces seven million tons of potatoes a year, of which it exports only 700,000 tons.”
Ahmed Hamdi, head of the Orient Group for Food Industries, said his company had been exporting dates for five years. “We export LE300 million worth of dates to Southeast Asian markets such as Indonesia and Malaysia. We are thinking of exporting to China since it is a large market and is close to countries we already export to,” Hamdi said.
Ayman Helmi, chairman of the Al-Motawakel Date Company, is also optimistic about the Chinese market. “The Southeast Asian market buys 50 per cent of Egypt's exports of dates. We expect China to take the remaining 50 per cent,” he said.
The expo is a landmark in the history of China, according to Hilal. “It is a game-changer. China is changing the face of world economy since it will be spending billions on imports, and this should help overcome the global economic recession,” he said.

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