26 and 28 July 2005

Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

See also:
> Press release: Continued trade and structural reforms could improve Egypt’s economic performance

We have conducted this third Trade Policy Review of Egypt in a thorough and highly informative manner. Through our dialogue with the Egyptian delegation we have obtained a better understanding of the developments in Egypt's trade policies and practices over the last six years. Our discussion has greatly benefited from the presence of a large Egyptian delegation, led by Dr. Samiha Fawzy, the insightful comments of our discussant, Ambassador de Seixas Corréa, and the active involvement of a large number of Members.

Members conveyed their condolences to the Egyptian delegation for the terrorist attack in Sharm el Sheikh. They appreciated Egypt's firm commitment to and active participation in the multilateral trading system, including the Doha Development Agenda. Noting that Egypt also participates in regional and bilateral trade agreements, Members enquired about the preferences available under these arrangements. Members acknowledged Egypt's macroeconomic and structural reform efforts, including the privatization programme and the liberalization of the exchange rate regime. Trade has been an important motor for Egypt's current economic recovery. Nonetheless, while inflation rates have been brought under control, fiscal deficits have remained high, and growth rates have been too low to have a significant impact on poverty and unemployment.

On trade policies, Members generally commended Egypt on its unilateral tariff reduction since its last Trade Policy Review in 1999. While they congratulated Egypt for its efforts to reduce the number of tariff lines where applied rates exceed the corresponding bound rates, they urged it to bring the remaining lines into conformity with its WTO obligations. Various Members also encouraged Egypt to simplify its tariff structure by, inter alia, reducing its tariff peaks of up to 3,000%. Members welcomed Egypt's efforts to streamline customs procedures, including the implementation of the WTO Agreement on Customs Valuation, but some expressed concerns about the continuing use of customs surcharges and the discretionary behaviour of customs officials. Members sought clarification about standards, technical regulations (including shelf-life requirements) and mandatory quality controls, and asked Egypt to enhance transparency and efficiency in the formulation and enforcement of such measures. Members also invited Egypt to resume its notifications to the WTO Committees on Agriculture, SPS, and TBT.

Members noted the vital and growing importance of services for the Egyptian economy. They expressed appreciation for reforms in the services sector, in particular in financial services and telecommunications, and were interested in plans for further privatization and dismantling of MFN exemptions. Members also asked questions on other issues, notably: enforcement and protection of intellectual property rights, local-content requirements, government procurement, contingency measures, the investment regime, agriculture, and energy.

Members appreciated the responses provided by the Egyptian delegation.

In conclusion, it is my feeling that, the keen interest shown by Members in this Review reflects the important role that Egypt plays in the multilateral trading system. The Review has drawn attention to steps taken by Egypt in liberalizing its trade regime, to the challenges it faces, and to areas in which policy reforms could be enhanced. I advocate that Members support Egypt in its reform efforts by providing further market access to its goods and services, and by being attentive to its requests for technical assistance.