Your Excellency, Sahar Nasr, Minister of Investment and International Cooperation,
Representatives of the Egyptian government and the Swiss business community in Egypt,
Swiss Embassy team in Cairo,
Ladies and gentlemen
1. Swiss – Egypt Relations
I would like to thank you for the warm reception you have given me here in Egypt. This is the first time I visit Egypt in my capacity as Swiss foreign minister, and as you can imagine, my team has prepared a busy programme for the two short days I am able to spend in this fascinating country.
I am here tonight to celebrate with you 110 years of business relations between our two countries. From the viewpoint of a statue in the Egyptian Museum, 110 years is not a long time. But in the context of the fast moving worlds of politics, trade and business, 110 years of solid relations mean a great deal!
110 years cannot be covered fully in five minutes, but let me share with you three points that seem essential to me and for the bilateral relations, not only economic, between our countries:
First, 110 years are a testament to the proximity of our two countries and economies:
Egypt has always been the gateway to African and Asian markets, and as a guarantor of stability in the region it remains a crucial partner for Switzerland.
But our close relations and the exchanges between our two peoples go beyond business: they affect our lives and those of our citizens and their families on a personal and human level. Excellent cooperation is therefore also key for the wellbeing of our citizens.
Switzerland and Egypt share a common understanding of what it means to be at the crossroads of important trade routes - in medical terms I would say: the arteria of global markets. I would even venture to compare the newly inaugurated Gotthard Base Tunnel (in my home canton of Ticino, which connects the North Sea to the Mediterranean) to the Suez Canal.
2. Trade is the soul of relations between States
Allow me to convey to you the greetings from my colleague, Minister Guy Parmelin, Head of the Federal Department of Economics affairs, Education and Research.
I’m convinced that trade is the soul of relations between states.
Egypt remains the most important export market and fourth biggest trade partner for Switzerland in Africa. Switzerland wants to invest more in Egypt and to increase these trade figures.
The EFTA Free Trade Agreement allows us to increase trade substantially, but more can be done. I am thinking in particular of the textile sector and the machine sector, which still have a large potential. In terms of investment, we need to identify together which areas of investment are the most promising for our countries.
Third, Switzerland wants to cooperate with Egypt in order to improve the framework conditions which are indispensable for solid foreign investment:
Transparency, a lean administration and stability are key factors to this. Investment in people is needed to promote the growth of the middle class and entrepreneurship, which are the backbone for every emerging economy.
3. Swiss international cooperation with Egypt
Our new Swiss cooperation strategy starting in 2020 will take this into account. The Swiss government and Parliament are currently reviewing the new framework for this. What is clear already is that Egypt will remain a priority partner for us, both as a country and as a key actor in the region.
I look forward to speaking about these topics and other important international issues tomorrow with President Al Sisi and distinguished representatives of Egypt’s Foreign Ministry.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I will not take up any more of your time after a hard day’s work. I am very glad to be here with you today and I thank you again for your attention. To the next 110 years…and more!