JERUSALEM (Mar. 13)
Minister of Commerce Gideon Patt has expressed regret that the Egyptian government refuses to divorce trade relations from its political differences with Israel. Patt, just returned from a three-day official visit to Cairo, predicted no early improvement in the ties between the two countries.
He had attended the opening of an international trade fair in Cairo as the guest of Egypt’s Economics Minister, Mustapha Said. He had lengthy discussions with Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Butros Ghali, in addition to his talks with Said.
The Egyptians, Patt said, reject Israel’s approach which would separate trade from political issues such as the Israeli presence in Lebanon, the Palestinian autonomy talks, the boundary dispute at Taba and other matters that have soured relations between Jerusalem and Cairo. Declining trade between the two countries is directly related to Egypt’s unhappiness over the state of political relations, Patt said.
He blamed this “linkage” for the drop in Israeli exports to Egypt from $25 million in 1982 to half that value in 1983. Egyptian exports to Israel remained static at $5 million during both years.
CITES ‘ECONOMIC ABSURDITIES’
According to Patt, the Egyptians are only harming themselves. He cited as “economic absurdities” the fact that Cairo now imports chicks from Europe at 55 cents each whereas it used to buy them from Israel at 30.5 cents each. Moreover, up to 40 percent of the European fowl do not survive the trip to Egypt. The mortality rate of chicks bought in Israel was much lower, he said.
“Or take chicken coops. They (the Egyptians) used to buy them from us. Now they get them from a British firm which imports them from Israel,” Patt said. Nevertheless, several Israeli firms displayed their products at the Cairo fair and reported lively interest.