Michel Halabi, the secretary general and CEO of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, said that he expects the volume of Egyptian exports to Brazil will reach $500m by 2020, compared with $193m by the end of 2017, an increase of 159%.
This came during the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce conference in Egypt on Tuesday, held to discuss the bilateral relations between Egypt and Brazil.
Halabi said the value of Egypt’s exports to Brazil is very small when compared to its imports from Brazil, which exceeds $2bn annually.
He added that this can be developed through enhancing the bilateral trade cooperation between the two countries through cross-cultural recognition and by increasing the Egyptian promotional missions to Brazil by the private sector as well as by the government.
Halabi pointed out to the free-trade agreement (FTA) between Egypt and the Mercosur countries, explaining that this agreement will open up competition in a broader scope, adding that there is a great demand for Egyptian products, but Brazilian consumers are not familiar with Egyptian well, so this area needs more support through increased promotional missions.
He pointed out that the chamber has begun to define Egyptian products in Brazil, such as food industries, including olive oil and dates, in addition to the carpets industry, engineering industries, decoration tools, and furniture.
Halabi explained that the chamber initially preferred to stay away from fresh vegetables and fruit products, as it takes time to agree on the stone procedures between the two countries and also because there are major customs barriers on them.
Halabi told Daily News Egypt on the sidelines of the conference, that the trade relations between the two sides faces many obstacles including the lack of direct transmission lines between the two countries, which leads to expensive transportation costs, as well as a language barrier, which has made exporters in Egypt prefer dealing with markets that are closer and easier to access than Brazil.
In this manner, he announced that the chamber is organising an investment conference in Sao Paolo next April, adding that Egyptian exporters will be invited to this conference in order to discuss the needs of the two markets and the obstacles that they face and how to overcome them.
Halabi said that the conference will include six panels of discussion: the image and branding of Egyptian products, renewable energy, transportation, food security, innovation and technology, and halal products, as there are 15 million Muslims in Brazil out of about 200 million inhabitants.
He pointed out that the Egyptian food industry needs organised exhibitions and promotional missions specialised for Brazil, to become familiar with them, especially commercial chains and restaurants, which can reach consumers directly.
Moreover, “joint bilateral meetings will be held between businessmen from both sides, on the sidelines of the conference, in coordination with the Egyptian-Brazilian Business Council,” he added
In terms of amending the lists of the Mercosur agreement and including some Egyptian products exempted from customs in the last four lists to be included in the first list, Halabi explained that the committee responsible for the agreement held a meeting and agreed that the committee will issue its decision within six months.
The agreement includes five lists each containing several products that are gradually exempted from customs.
The first of which started implementation last September, while the implementation period for the second lasts for four years, the third for eight years, and the last two for 10 years.
In the same context, Halabi said that the committee of the agreement is negotiating with five Arab countries to participate in the Mercosur agreement, including Lebanon, Tunisia, Jordan, and Morocco and some other countries have expressed interest in opening discussions to participate, such as Gulf states and Algeria.
It is worth mentioning that the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce announced in October 2017 the entry into force of the FTA which was signed in 2010 between Egypt and the Mercosur countries.
The agreement aims to enhance the volume of trade exchange between Egypt and the countries of the group, which include Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay.
For his part, Ahmed Antar, head of the Egyptian Commercial Service said that there are about 39 companies in Egypt from Mercosur countries, noting that their investments in Egypt are worth $42m.
It is worth mentioning that the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry announced earlier that the volume of trade exchange between Egypt and Mercosur countries amounted to about $3.3bn annually.