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Egyptian trade delegation visits Israel as countries eye stronger cooperation

Visit, first in almost a decade, is part of 2004’s QIZ agreement signed between Israel, Egypt and US; Israel’s economy minister says economic partnership boosts regional prosperity

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

A delegation of 12 Egytian industrialists and businesspeople during a visit to Israel as part of the 2004 QIZ agreement. (June 20, 2022.)
A delegation of 12 Egytian industrialists and businesspeople during a visit to Israel as part of the 2004 QIZ agreement. (June 20, 2022.)

An Egyptian trade delegation arrived in Israel on Sunday for a visit as part of the framework of an economic agreement between Israel, Egypt and the US.

The visit of 12 Egyptian industrialists and businesspeople from the textile industry, whose businesses are part of the Qualified Industrial Zone (QIZ) agreement, marks the first visit of such a delegation in about a decade, a joint statement issued by the Foreign Ministry along with the Economy and Industry Ministry read.

The delegation is set to meet Israeli officials from various organizations, including the Manufacturers Association, the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, and the Israel Export Institute.

They will also visit factories throughout the country and meet representatives from large Israeli companies, the statement read.

“The economic partnership between Israel and Egypt will promote business and economic growth between the countries, as well as regional prosperity,” said Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai in a statement, adding that the visit by the Egyptian delegation will help promote the interests of both Israel and Egypt.

The visit was initiated by Israel and is seen as an attempt to strengthen the scope of trade and economic cooperation with Egypt in the next few years.

Economy Minister Orna Barbivai attends a conference in Modiin, May 26, 2022. (Flash90)

“Economic cooperation has always been a major component of promoting relations and the QIZ agreement has a special significance in that regard. We expect the visit to lead to the expansion of collaborations as part of the QIZ’s industrial zones,” said Oded Yosef, head of the Middle East unit at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The QIZ agreement, signed in 2004, allows the export of Egyptian products to the US duty-free so long as those products have 10.5% of their components from Israel, including manpower, fuel, raw materials or equipment.

Goods produced in QIZ-designated industrial parks in Egypt and Jordan are believed to have significantly helped increase regional prosperity by providing business opportunities.

In 2021, trade between Israel and Egypt amounted to $330 million.

The vast majority of Israeli goods exported to Egypt as part of the QIZ agreement are textile materials and products (78%), along with industrial chemicals (11%), and rubber and plastic (8%), while imports from Egypt to Israel include industrial chemicals (32%), fresh agriculture produce and food products (27%), and mechanical machinery (17%).

“The Egyptian market is growing and we welcome the visit and the Egyptian interest in the Israeli industry,” said Ohad Cohen, head of the Foreign Trade Administration in the Economy Ministry.

The Egyptian visit follows a visit by Israeli economic organizations to Egypt last month as part of a bilateral QIZ conference held in Cairo.

The Economy Ministry said last month that Israel and Egypt were moving to reach $700 million in annual bilateral trade in the next three years.

The new plan is meant to expose more Israeli industries to the Egyptian market and make development and infrastructure projects accessible to Israeli tech companies.

Barbivai said at the time the countries will work to upgrade the Nitzana crossing, “which will promote trade relations with Egypt, and create quality employment in the south [of Israel], alongside activity by Israeli companies in the Egyptian market, and lower the cost of living [in Israel] by importing food and cement.”

Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement in 1979 but relations have been mostly frosty, thawing more recently in the past few years. The countries maintain close security ties and share security interests in the Gaza Strip as well as in Sinai and the eastern Mediterranean, but most Egyptians reject ties with Israel. Cairo, like Jerusalem, sees Gaza’s Hamas rulers as a serious threat and has restricted crossings to and from the enclave.

In early 2020, Israel began exporting natural gas to Egypt, marking a historic moment for both countries. Last week, Israel, Egypt and the European Union signed a memorandum of understanding in Cairo that will see Israel export its natural gas to the bloc for the first time.

Ricky Ben-David contributed to this report.

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