by Mahmoud Fouly, Li Yiyan
ISMAILIA, Egypt, May 1 (Xinhua) -- Egypt's northeastern province of Ismailia is eager to attract more Chinese investments as it seeks faster economic growth.
This was reflected by a meeting hosted Sunday by Ismailia's Governor Yassin Taher with a group of representatives of 11 major Chinese companies in Egypt, introducing the investment opportunities in Ismailia.
The response from the Chinese attendees at the meeting, also attended by officials from the Chinese consulate in Alexandria, was enthusiastic.
"The China-Egypt relations are balanced and distinguished and there is a real mutual desire to create a state of integration that is supported by the officials of both sides," Taher told Xinhua following the meeting at Ismailia Governorate's headquarter.
Taher elaborated on the investment opportunities in his province, including a very advanced road network with a number of tunnels and bridges that link the province's eastern and western sides, available lands, and all required services for investors, as well as good weather.
The China-Egypt ties have been elevated to the level of comprehensive strategic partnership with growing economic cooperation between the two countries in light of China's Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.
"Ismailia is located alongside a very important Chinese strategic project, which is the B&R Initiative. So, the province is part of a Chinese strategic initiative to which Egypt is a contributor," Taher said.
Occupying an area of over 5,000 sq km, Ismailia is one of the three Suez Canal provinces including Suez and Port Said.
Among the ongoing national mega projects in the province include the establishment of the New Ismailia City on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal, the underground tunnels to connect the Sinai Peninsula with the western side of the cana, and the Sarabium siphon underneath the canal to transport the Nile River water to Sinai for land reclamation.
China's Consul General in Alexandria Xu Nanshan said that the meeting was proposed by Governor Taher when they met in January.
"They introduced many industrial and agricultural projects with various forms of cooperation, and there is a Chinese company that has already contacted Ismailia officials to discuss the sites of three new factories to be established in the province," the Chinese diplomat told Xinhua.
He said the investment prospects in Ismailia are very promising not only because of its important location in Egypt's Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone), a strategic belt for the Egyptian economy, but also its link with China's B&R Initiative.
The Egyptian parliament approved last year the long-awaited new investment law with its "one-stop window" system that allows foreign investors to do business more easily without having to visit several ministries to obtain approvals.
"I hope that Egypt will create a good investment environment for Chinese companies and provide encouraging policies based on the new investment law," Xu said.
The development of the Suez Canal corridor is one of Egypt's ongoing mega projects that are supervised by the Suez Canal Authority and the SCZone.
In Ain Sokhna district in the eastern province of Suez near Ismailia, China's TEDA corporation, one of the oldest and largest developers of the SCZone, has already finished the first-phase development of an area of 7.23 sq km, attracting some 68 enterprises.
China's fiberglass giant Jushi, a tenant company of TEDA industrial zone, has recently helped Egypt become the world's third largest producer of fiberglass after the United States and China.
"The SCZone in Ain Sokhna is a living example of the success of the cooperation between the two sides," said Abdel-Kader Darwish, the SCZone deputy chief, who attended the meeting in Ismailia.
"We hope for the establishment of another Chinese entity in Ismailia, in addition to the industrial developer currently present in Ain Sokhna of Suez, and we're looking forward to turning Egypt into an economic base in southern Mediterranean that provides services for the surrounding regions," Darwish added.
He pointed out that there are available investment opportunities in the SCZone including Ismailia's eastern region, in the fields of silicon and glass manufacturing, and its Western-Qantara region, in the fields of food manufacturing and logistic zones.
Among the Chinese companies attending the meeting included the China Development Bank (CDB), State Grid Corporation of China, China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), China State Shipbuilding Corporation, China Zhenhua Oil Co., and China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation.
The CSCEC signed in October 2017 a 3-billion-U.S. dollar deal with the Egyptian government to build the Central Business District in its new administrative capital city, which is located 50 km east of the capital Cairo. The construction has already started in March.
"We also reached a framework agreement for building three handball arenas in Egypt at a cost of 100 million U.S. dollars, and we are now planning to build a business park that gathers Chinese companies and residents in New Cairo," said Zhou Jingfeng, CSCEC deputy general manager in Egypt.
As a major participant in the meeting in Ismailia, Bian Shiyuan, chief representative of the CDB office in Cairo, expressed his willingness to promote the China-Egypt cooperation as part of China's national strategy.
"We cooperate with the Egyptian side in the financial sector by helping the small and medium-sized enterprises in the country to grow through local financing institutions, which has been highly commended by our Egyptian partners, especially in the Central Bank of Egypt," Bian told Xinhua.
Bian noted that the CDB has already invested 3 billion U.S. dollars in Egypt in the fields of industry, manufacture and agriculture, since the establishment of its representative office in Cairo in 2009.
The CDB investment in Egypt is expected to be almost doubled in 2018, he added.