Mostafa Ibrahim, chairperson of the Egypt Australia Business Council, said that bilateral relations with Australia suffer from immobility issues since there are have been no governmental visits between the countries, noting than boosting relations depends on President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi responding to an invitation for him to officially visit Australia.
Ibrahim told Daily News Egypt that Immigration Minister Nabila Makram is the only Egyptian minister who has paid remarkable attention to Australia, adding, “Minister Nabila visited Australia several times during the last two years; she exerted good efforts, but we need more through the Ministry of Trade and Industry and other governmental business entities.”
The long distance between both countries is one of the main reasons for the inactive relations, noted Ibrahim, adding, “reaching Australia takes about 15 hours by flight to reach, but we have strong business cooperation with other far countries like the US and China because we work on enhancing the relations and getting the best benefits, which is the contrary with Australia.”
Ibrahim noted that closing Egypt’s commercial service office in Australia is considered a negative sign, especially since Australia does not have a trade office in Cairo and covers its activities in Egypt through its Riyadh office in Saudi Arabia.
Ibrahim added that he met with representatives of Australia’s trade office in Riyadh two weeks ago to discuss boosting bilateral relations and participating in Egypt’s new cities projects, mentioning, “we felt that Australia’s trade office will focus on the Saudi market more than the Egyptian one.”
Ibrahim said Australia is interested in working on the announced Saudi touristic project on the Red Sea, noting that it is a huge project that will attract billions of dollars.
It is worth noting that Saudi Arabia announced last year its plans for implementing huge tourism projects as part of its Saudi Vision 2030 to diversify its non-petroleum sources of income.
“There is great potential to efficiently cooperate with Australia, but unfortunately both sides need to exert more realistic efforts than the shining speeches,” added Ibrahim, noting that Egyptian businesspersons face difficulties in getting visas to travel to Australia and the process takes long periods of time, which adds an additional problem to revitalising the relations.
Ibrahim noted that the business community awaits governmental moves to refresh the relations with Australia, including ministerial visits and offering initiatives.
Ibrahim said that bilateral trade exchange recorded $630m at the end of 2017, which is a modest figure compared with both countries’ abilities, adding, “the trade balance suffers a huge gap for the Australian side; we export about $30m to Australia, while we import $600m from Australia”.