In September CMEC led its first delegation to Egypt. The visit to Cairo, hosted by the People’s Assembly, included David Lidington MP, Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Hugo Swire MP, CMEC Chairman, Mark Simmonds MP, Shadow Health Minister, Crispin Blunt MP, Shadow Security Minister, and Philip Dunne MP, Deputy Chairman of the CCHQ International Office. The programme began with meetings with the Speakers of the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council, Dr. Ahmed Fathi Sorour and Mohamed Safwat Al Sherif followed by a lunch with Dr Mostafa El Feki MP, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
Minister of Trade and Industry, Rashid Mohamed Rashid, explained how Egypt has shown a degree of resiliency to the global economic crisis and today boasts a GDP growth rate of 4.7%. Efforts to introduce economic reforms have transformed a traditionally protective economy to one with an improved regulatory environment that has encouraged both regional and foreign investment. The UK is Egypt’s largest investor and UK exports to Egypt increased by 28% in 2008.
In their meeting with the Egyptian Foreign Minister the group discussed Egypt’s role as an important regional interlocutor. Ahmed Aboul Gheit spoke of Egypt’s strong bilateral relationship with Israel and the efforts of General Omar Suleiman to broker the unity talks between the Palestinian factions but referred to Gaza as an unexploded bomb. He expressed his preference for a Middle East region free of nuclear weapons and a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear question.
During their meeting with Gamal Mubarak, Secretary General of the ruling National Democratic Party’s (NDP) Political Bureau, the delegates learnt of the Party’s efforts to attract investment for public private partnerships to improve the country’s ailing infrastructure and social services. While unemployment is recorded as 9 million the delegates were told about the ongoing challenge of Egypt’s ‘disguised unemployment’ in the form of the five million employees on the government’s payroll.
The CMEC delegates were delighted and honoured to be received by the First Lady, Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, who revealed the social challenges faced by Egypt’s 80 million people and her efforts to support women’s empowerment and education for all. Further meetings were held with the Egyptian British Business Council, the National Human Rights Council and the National Women’s Council. The delegation came to a close with final briefing from British Ambassador Dominic Asquith.