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Egyptian president heads to China for investment talks
Chinese investment, including in industrial and technological projects, is the primary focus of Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi’s visit to Beijing starting Tuesday, state media and officials said.
Mursi leaves for China late Monday on his first visit outside the Arab world since becoming president in June. He will then head to Tehran for the Non-Aligned Movement summit on Thursday.
The visit aims to “attract Chinese investment in Egypt,” presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said.
Cairo and Beijing are to sign agreements for seven major projects, including a power station in Upper Egypt, a desalination plant, industrial bakeries and Internet development, according to assistant planning minister Nabil Abdel Hamid.
Egypt will also propose development of a high-speed train line between Cairo and Alexandria, Hamid told state daily Al-Ahram.
Coinciding with Mursi’s visit, a joint business forum will be held in Beijing attended by some 80 Egyptian business leaders, the investment ministry announced.
Egypt’s imports from China in 2011 reached $7.5 billion, versus exports valued at $1.5 billion, as trade between the two countries rose to a total of $9 billion, according to official figures.
Ousted former president Hosni Mubarak had already made trade with China a priority, as volume rose from $610 million in 1998 to $6.2 billion 10 years later.
Egypt hosted the 2009 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, or FOCAC, in its resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where China pledged $10 billion in concessional loans and enhanced trade to African states.
Mursi faces tough economic challenges in the wake of the uprising which forced Mubarak from power last year, and severely affected foreign investment.
On his way back from China, the Islamist president will attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran on Thursday, when he will pass the movement’s presidency from Egypt to Iran.
It will be the first visit by an Egyptian head of state since the two countries severed diplomatic relations more than 30 years ago, although Mursi downplayed the issue of possible resumption of diplomatic relations.
Iran cut ties with Egypt in 1980 after the Islamic revolution in protest against the 1979 peace accords between Egypt and Israel.