Lebanese, Egyptian Business Forum kicks off in Beirut

Represented by Telecoms Minister, Jamal Jarrah, Prime Minister Saad Hariri inaugurated on Thursday the third Lebanese-Egyptian Business Forum, which is organized by the Egyptian-Lebanese Businessmen Friendship Association, in partnership with Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal Group, in cooperation with the Egyptian and Lebanese embassies and the Union of Chambers in both countries, at the Four Seasons Hotel – Beirut.

Participating in the forum are ministers, officials and investors from both countries, along with the heads of financial and banking institutions from different sectors.

Egyptian Minister of Investment and International Cooperation, Sahar Nasr, delivered a word in which she capitalized on the importance of bolstering Lebanese-Egyptian economic relations.

“Our meeting today is an important opportunity to discuss existing initiatives by the businessmen of both countries — in support of the Egyptian and Lebanese economies — and to discuss the best means to integrate these initiatives within the works of the Egyptian-Lebanese Joint Higher Committee, which will be holding its 8th meeting in Cairo in March 2017,” the Egyptian Minister said, noting that the last joint committee meeting was held back in 2010.

Nasr went on to hail the massive participation of the private sector in the forum sessions, especially in its capacity as a key driver in cementing Egyptian-Lebanese trade and economic ties.

“The private sector plays a major and essential role anchoring development and introducing economic reform in Lebanon and Egypt (…) we are planning to endeavor within the forthcoming phase to ensure incentives that encourage investments and attract the private sector to take part in different economic activities. We will work on encouraging the local and foreign private sectors to finance economic and developmental projects in Egypt,” Nasr added.

She went on to call for abolishing all the hindrances and chains that halt trade exchange and investments between both countries, but rather more opted for encouraging the establishment of joint companies, whether via state contributions or via the encouragement of the private Lebanese-Egyptian sector to adopt more of such initiatives.

“We are looking forward to putting together a specific plan with a specific timetable to revive joint economic and investment activity between Egypt and Lebanon,” Nasr added, pinning hope that the end of this forum would witness real economic initiatives that will support the economies of both countries.

Delivering PM Hariri’s word, Minister Jarrah lauded the decades-long relationship between Lebanon and Egypt, and thanked the latter for having always been a source of support for Lebanon and its people during the most difficult of times.

“Late Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, had always stressed the paramount importance of Arab unity, which he insisted would only be built on economic grounds. Economic unity is part and parcel to resolve political disputes between countries. Late Hariri used to reiterate the fact that we should all believe and trust in each other to be able to build a rigid economy,” Jarrah said.

He went on to remind of the importance of having each country enjoy a different field of expertise and production in a bid to avoid ferocious competition “in our small markets that do not allow it”.

“Each country should offer the Arab economy all that it masters to reach a state of integration en route to Arab unity, which shall eventually lead to progress and growth,” Jarrah added, reminding as well of the pressing need to set political polemic apart from economic affairs.

“Treaties, agreements, and even factories should not be confiscated if we politically disagree,” he added.

Moreover, he heaped praise on the special role that the private sector plays in beefing-up the national economy.

“We will be working on some much-needed legislations to eliminate the fear factors that have been discouraging private investors, especially that the private sector has lately suffered a great deal in Lebanon, and the Arab world in general,” he said.

“We stand at the threshold of a new phase in Lebanon and the Arab world. President of the Republic, Michel Aoun’s visit to Egypt emanates from his keenness on developing bilateral ties, at all levels,” Jarrah concluded.

In turn, Lebanese Trade and Economy Minister, Raed Khoury, said that today’s forum came amid an important juncture of Lebanon’s history.

“This forum comes amid a positive atmosphere that resulted in the election of a new president and the formation of a new cabinet, which aims to come out with swift results and to draw long-term policies, despite its shot stint.”

Khoury also expressed hope that this would eventually restore trust in Lebanon’s economy.

“Lebanon enjoys a strategic location and a free economy. It is a country open to the international market. The Arab Republic of Egypt also enjoys a massive political and economic weight across the African continent, and this is what makes cooperation between the two countries an equation that is difficult to compete with,” Khoury added.

This forum provides an opportunity for decision-makers in the Egyptian and Lebanese institutions from the public and private sectors to meet. It is also a platform to address the latest developments in the two countries and to benefit from the comparative advantage in both Egypt and Lebanon in order to enhance bilateral cooperation in the African markets.

The first forum was held in Beirut on February 13, 2015 and the second on November 10, 2015 with the participation of ministers and around 200 business leaders from both countries.

Source: National News Agency