Minister: Egypt will not backtrack on free market economy

Mahmoud Eissa, Egypt’s minister of industry and foreign trade, repeated on Sunday that the country will not backtrack on its commitment to the free market economy after a recent court verdict ruled that the ownership of three companies should return to the state.

On 21 September, the Cairo Administrative Court suspended the privatization contracts of three companies, returning them to the public sector. The three companies are Shebin Textile Company, Tanta Linens and Al-Nasr for Steam Boilers.

Activists said that the companies were sold illegally under the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak for prices far lower than their real value.

The September court ruling sparked fears among foreign investors that Egypt was heading towards a policy of nationalization. Following the court ruling, Egypt's Deputy Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy, who is also the interim government's finance minister, said: "The government will not backtrack on a free market economy."

Eissa, who was speaking at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum meeting in Jordon, said that the court ruling doesn’t mean a “shift in Egypt’s economic policies,” adding that the court proved that the contracts of sale for the companies were legally faulty.

Eissa also said that Egypt is aiming to strengthen free market agreements with various regional trade blocks, such as the Arab region and the European Union, which is Egypt’s biggest trading partner.

However, he said that a commercial agreement with the United States should be based on economic principles, not political considerations.

Since signing the peace treaty with Israel, the United States has given Egypt an average of $2 billion annually since 1979, much of it military aid, making it the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel.

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