18% decline in Israel-Egypt exchange volume: Report
Israel's border with Egypt, as seen from the Israeli side - REUTERS

CAIRO: The trade exchange volume between Egypt and Israel declined by 18 percent since 2010 when it recorded $415 million including $355 million in Egyptian exports to Israel, according to a report issued by the Israeli Center’s Bureau of Statistics.

Since the former President Hosni Mubarak’s toppling in 2011, consecutive explosions targeted the Israel-Egypt oil pipeline, which caused the Israeli exporting trade volume to decline by 60 percent.

Israel exported to Egypt, during 2013, 39 percent of the Israeli total textile exports; 37 percent of spare parts; 27 percent of the petroleum products; 17 percent of raw material and plastic; 2 percent of machines and equipment; 7 percent of stationery supplies and 5 percent of various products, according to a report published by Israeli newspaper Calcalist Wednesday.

Regarding Israeli imports from Egypt in 2013, textiles and clothing imports formed 13 percent of the total imports while food, drinks and tobacco represented 12 percent, mineral products represented 10 percent; plastics and rubber represented 8 percent in addition to another 8 percent of agricultural crop products. The trade volume hit $200 million in 2013 as Israeli exports to Egypt amounted to $120 million.

After signing the peace treaty in 1979, the annual trade volume jumped from $40 to $50 million; however, the volume’s average went up to $100 million annually following the Oslo accords.

During the period from 2002 to 2004, the annual trade exchange volume hit $30 million; after the Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs) accord came in to force in late 2004, causing Israeli textile exports to increase.

“Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZ) entitle goods jointly produced by Israel and Egypt to enter the United States duty free. The creation of QIZ was authorized by Congress in 1996. It amended the United State-Israel Free Trade Area Implementation Act of 1985 with the goal of promoting peace, development, and trade between Israel and the surrounding countries, namely Egypt, since it signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979,” according to the website of the American-Egyptian Trade Chamber in Cairo.

In 2008, when Egypt signed a deal to export Egyptian natural gas into Israel, the volume of Israel imports from Egypt hit $270 million, while Egypt imported from Israel products worth $134 million.

Egyptian gas was exported to Israel via the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG) which is owned by the fugitive Egyptian-Spanish business tycoon Hussein Salem, who is a close associate of Mubarak.

Salem, in June 2012 was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in jail, for squandering public funds by exporting gas to Israel at below market prices in return to offering Mubarak and his two sons luxury villas and palaces.

As a protest against exporting Egyptian gas to Israel, the gas pipeline between both countries was blown up 23 times since the January 25 Revolution.

The Bloomberg reported Thursday that Egypt and Israel are negotiating a $60 million deal under which Israel could export natural gas to liquefaction plants in Egypt.

The Noble Energy Inc. (NBL) and the Israeli Delek Group Ltd. (DLEKG) are planning to deliver 6.25 trillion cubic feet of gas from the Tamar and Leviathan offshore fields to Egypt’s Damietta port and the coastal town of Idku, Bloomberg added, noting that executives could finalize the agreements by the end of this year.

Noble Energy and Union Fenosa Gas announced the intent for the export of Tamar natural Gas to existing Liquefaction Natural Gas facilities (LNG) in Egypt on May 5. The Letter of Intent indicates that the contract will last for 15 years and a total gross sales quantity of up to 2.5 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas, approximately 440 million cubic feet per day, Noble Energy announced.

The Egyptian Government defined three conditions to allow the import of Israeli gas; getting permission from the state, gas fulfilling added value to the Egyptian economy, and finding solutions to deal with international arbitration cases issued against Egyptian companies, Minister of Petroleum Sherif Ismail told Al-Masry Al-Youm on June 28.

Additional reporting by Hashim el-Fakharany and Randa el-Banna

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