Conjoining new Suez Canal with China’s Belt and Road initiatives benefits world
As Egypt officially opened on Thursday its “New Suez Canal,” it is broadly believed that this project, conjoined with China’s Belt and Road initiatives, will inject strong impetus into China-Egypt cooperation and benefit the whole region and the world at large.
While the Egyptian flagship project helps spur the nation’s economic comeback, the two countries’ all-around strategic cooperation will also enhance regional security, peace, stability and development as well as global trade prosperity.
Egypt can play a key role in China’s Belt and Road initiatives due to its strategic geographic location, said Han Bing, minister counselor for economic affairs with the Chinese embassy in Cairo, told Xinhua in an interview.
China and Egypt have complementary pro-development policies, Han said, referring to the most populous Arab country’s New Suez Canal project “a good opportunity” to boost reciprocal cooperation between the two countries, which forged a comprehensive strategic partnership during Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi’s state visit to China in December 2014.
Proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, known as the Belt and Road initiatives, aim to revive the ancient trade routes between Asia and Europe. The network spans over 60 countries and regions, with a total population of 4.4 billion.
Echoing Xi’s initiatives, Sisi pledged that Egypt will be an active part of the proposal, while Beijing also vowed to support Cairo’s efforts to maintain stability and growth as the nation strives to find a development path that fits its own national conditions.
Han said port cooperation should be a priority for China and Egypt as the two sides join their hands in pushing forward the Belt and Road as well as the Suez Canal economic corridor initiatives, because the harbors at both ends of the Suez Canal have a great influence over the Middle East, Africa and the entire planet in terms of geopolitics and global trade.
The North African nation plans to open six new ports and more industrial parks alongside the canal, and launch in the surrounding areas projects like a new industrial city, which is capable of hosting hundreds of factories.
“These programs can provide promising investment choices for the world, including Chinese companies...A great success has been witnessed by China and Egypt in building the Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone at the Suez Canal region,” Han said.
China’s investment in Egypt has been growing steadily over the past years, even during those chaotic periods when the country was suffering political and social upheaval, stressed the diplomat, adding that Egypt’s economic revival provides an opportunity for China to promote bilateral economic and trade cooperation.
“The new Suez Canal area will give the Chinese side more opportunities to invest in Egypt and other countries,” Egypt’s former ambassador to China Mahmoud Allam told Xinhua in a recent interview.
“Egypt decides to establish an industrial city and logistics area in the Suez Canal zone, which will attract many investors and countries, especially China,” he said.
As one of the key national projects that are at the heart of the Egyptian government’s efforts to revive the country’s sluggish economy, the New Suez Canal will offer the Chinese side the opportunity to invest more in Egypt, a vital logistics, commercial and industrial hub between European, Arab and African markets, Allam said.
Allam noted that many Chinese companies have started to invest in northwest Suez area nine years ago, and that growing Chinese investments are flowing to Egypt after China and Egypt decided to elevate their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
China’s Belt and Road initiatives are of special and great significance for Egypt to develop its industries and trade markets, he said. “The initiatives will connect all countries together in their efforts to keep open to the international markets.”
“The initiative has now begun a practical implementation, I can see that the Chinese government has cost a lot of money to support the infrastructure projects carried out in this area...We have seen both sides win,” Allam said.
The New Suez Canal project, completed within only one year under strict orders by President Sisi, included a newly-dug 35-km waterway alongside the original 190-km Suez Canal, plus a 37-km expansion and deepening of some parts of the old one.
The new waterway is expected to reduce waiting and crossing time from 22 hours to 11, and will allow bigger ships to pass through, which will encourage more vessels to use the Suez Canal for their trade movement.
Egyptian officials said the new waterway will help increase the canal’s annual ship traffic revenues from 5.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2015 to more than 13 billion and even up to 15 billion by 2023, attracting huge foreign investments and creating thousands of job opportunities.
Analysts believe that the canal is only a beginning for more such development projects in the Suez Canal corridor that are expected to attract investments worth billions of dollars and produce more jobs.
“The New Suez Canal project is considered a leap forward for Egypt, especially with the development of the surrounding region,” said Ibrahim Nawwar, an economic expert and former spokesman for the Egyptian industry and foreign trade ministry.