Statement as delivered by Christopher Wilson,
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative
Geneva, February 20, 2018
Thank you, Chair. The United States would like to welcome the delegation from Egypt on the occasion of the government’s fourth WTO Trade Policy Review. A dozen years have passed since the previous review in 2005, and the Egyptian government has made significant changes to its economic model since 2006, including the promulgation of a new constitution. So, this review is particularly important, and the United States would like to thank Egypt and the Secretariat for their work in compiling reports that have helped explain these changes and other trade issues, and we are grateful for their thoroughness. We wish to thank Egypt for its responses to our written questions.
The Secretariat report notes that Egypt’s economy has faced many external and internal challenges in the intervening years stemming from an extended period of instability. Since 2014, Egypt, working with the IMF, has undertaken notable reforms, including floating the Egyptian pound, tax reform, fuel subsidy reform, and further privatization steps.
Furthermore, Egypt ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2017, and adopted a new investment law, which offers further incentives, reduces bureaucracy, and simplifies and enhances investment processes to promote foreign investment. Egypt has eliminated some customs fees and charges on imports, and has begun to implement the TFA. The United States applauds these efforts and will assist where possible in helping Egypt meet these new commitments.
However, the Secretariat also notes that weak growth and limited foreign exchange earnings have led Egypt to adopt a number of trade restrictive policies. Raising tariffs on a broad range of imported consumer goods and imposing onerous registration requirements for foreign manufactures seeking to export to Egypt, among other measures, can reduce consumer choice and raise the costs of living for all Egyptians.
The United States is consistently looking to enhance relations with partners willing to remove trade barriers and open their markets to our exports. We believe Egypt shares our goals, and we hope to strengthen our relationship under our bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. Although we see great commercial potential in the Egyptian market, reforms are still needed. Egypt’s economy has improved and, in our view, the need for these trade restrictive measures intended to conserve hard currency has passed; allowing them to remain in place may send a signal that Egypt is not open for business.
Many of the questions we posed for this Trade Policy Review reflect our desire to encourage Egypt to increase transparency and predictability in its import policies and the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, as these steps will help Egypt attract more foreign trade and investment. For example, Egypt adopted a number of complex certification and quality control requirements on many products, while asserting that it is committed to relying on standards that conform with the TBT Agreement. The United States wishes to learn more about Egypt’s ongoing initiatives in this context.
The United States also wishes to learn more about Egypt’s plans to set up a new food safety agency, in an effort to adopt scientific approaches to sanitary and phytosanitary measures. We continue to have concerns that U.S. agricultural exports, specifically corn seeds developed through agricultural biotechnology and seed potatoes, face unwarranted trade barriers, including delayed approvals and importation bans. Further, Egypt’s import bans on poultry parts, and its refusal to allow the use of Codex-approved veterinary drugs in imported meat products raise questions of Egypt’s WTO compliance. The United States asks whether Egypt plans to abandon these requirements, and if not, requests that Egypt to provide scientific risk assessments and work with the United States to resolve these issues. Additionally, the United States encourages Egypt to give greater attention to submitting notifications to the WTO with respect to its import licensing regime.
The United States remains concerned about inadequate enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR), particularly with respect to the prevalence of pirated and counterfeit goods, including software, music, and videos. The United States looks forward to learning more about Egypt’s plans on IPR protection, as strong intellectual property protections are critical to creating a business-friendly environment.
In closing, we would also note Egypt has shown commitment to the WTO as an important element of its economic growth strategy. We would like to commend Egypt for undertaking substantial economic reforms and for joining the Trade Facilitation Agreement. We are, of course, committed to working with our Egyptian colleagues to strengthen and deepen our trade and investment relationship, and we wish Egypt a successful Trade Policy Review.