Eurasian Economic Union Free Trade Agreement Negotiations With Egypt At An ‘Advanced’ Stage

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By Chris Devonshire-Ellis 

Andrei Slepnev, the Minister for Trade of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EAEU) has talked about the plans to set up free trade zones between the Eurasian Economic Union and third countries. The EAEU includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia and fills a geographical area between China and the European Union.

“Negotiations with Egypt are already at an advanced stage,” the minister said. “I hope that we will be able to announce about the agreements in principle. This is a broad-ranging deal. It will be complemented, of course, by the work of countries on the bilateral agenda: Russia is working actively. So is Belarus. Production has been growing. In general, Egypt is the gateway to the African and Arab regions, it is a very important country.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri also visited Moscow last week to meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

Egypt’s main trading partners are EU countries, which account for 30.3% of its foreign trade turnover, while Arabic countries represent 22.9%. China and Asian trade accounts for 19.6%. Russia exported US$5.77 billion of products to Egypt in 2019, with a wide basket of commodities being sold onto Egyptian markets. Cereals are a large component of Russia’s trade. Egypt exported US$406 million to Russia in 2020, with the bulk of this agricultural produce.

However, Egypt is part of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which allows African goods to be traded throughout the continent duty free. That means sourcing can take place for different components throughout Africa and consolidated into one location for production. This is a primary reason why Russia has established an additional Free Trade Zone in Port Said near the Suez Canal as this allows Russian and EAEU component parts to be added at duty free rates until the finished product – for example, a motorbike or computer – can then either be reexported to other markets or resold onto AfCFTA.

In other areas, Slepnev also stated that work is underway to conclude a full-scale agreement with Iran, which currently operates on an annually renewed, temporary basis. Negotiations are also underway with India.

“We are looking to proceed to negotiations with countries such as Mongolia and Indonesia. Indonesia is an important market, of more than 280 million people. What we have today is a very ambitious agenda” he stated.

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