Xi signs Egypt deals as China looks to boost Mideast clout

Special to WorldTribune.com

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Jan. 21 pledged billions of dollars in aid to Egypt as Beijing moved to boost its influence in the Middle East.

“China supports Egypt’s efforts to maintain stability, develop the economy and improve livelihoods, and … play an even greater role in international and regional affairs,” Xi said, according to China’s foreign ministry.

Chinese President Xi Jinping with Egyptian President Abdul Fatah Sisi in Cairo on Jan. 20. Xinhua/Ju Peng
Chinese President Xi Jinping with Egyptian President Abdul Fatah Sisi in Cairo on Jan. 20. /Xinhua/Ju Peng

Egypt is the second stop on Xi’s tour of the Middle East tour that analysts say is a major push by China for greater clout in a region that provides vital oil supplies.

Xi arrived in Egypt from Saudi Arabia and will head next to Iran. While in Riyadh, Xi signaled China’s support for Yemen’s government, which is fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

The Chinese president’s pledge of aid comes at a time when slumping oil prices may be jeopardizing the billions in economic assistance Egypt receives from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Xi’s visit was also seen as a vote of confidence for Egyptian President Abdul Fatah Sisi’s administration.

“We discussed in our consultations the need to redouble our common efforts in various bilateral and international areas to combat the danger of terrorism and extremism,” Sisi said.

The deals include a $1 billion financing agreement for Egypt’s central bank and a $700 million loan to state-owned National Bank of Egypt.

Xi said 32 Chinese companies are working in Egypt’s Suez Canal economic zone, investing more than $400 million, adding those figures will rise to 100 firms and $2.5 billion with the next phase of the project.

China and Egypt are also planning 15 projects in electricity, infrastructure and transport with investments that could total $15 billion, Xi said.

Xi also outlined billions of dollars in investment plans for the wider Middle East in his speech at the Cairo-headquartered Arab League. Beijing pledged $15 billion in special loans to boost industrial production in the region, $10 billion in trade credit for joint energy projects and another $10 billion in soft loans.

Additionally, China will set up funds with the UAE and Qatar worth a total $20 billion to invest in conventional energy. It will extend its contracts to buy oil from the region and dedicate $300 million to helping train police.