CAIRO: Egypt and Switzerland signed on Thursday a memorandum of understanding regarding counterfeiting, piracy and the protection of intellectual property rights at an event held by the Swiss Trade Mission in Cairo.
The purpose of the MOU, which was also signed by Phillips Morris, the international cigarette and tobacco giant, was to reiterate Egypt’s recognition of and commitment to both issues.
“Intellectual property rights (IPR) are of prime importance to Swiss companies, and Egypt has agreed to put it at the top of its economic agenda,” noted Hani Barakat, first undersecretary to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid went to Bern in 2009 to discuss industrial relations between both nations, and in Cairo this year both countries signed their first “trade and industry action plan,” Barakat stated.
The main contents of the plan centered on private sector development as well as measures to invite Swiss companies to Egypt to foster an attractive local business environment.
Against this backdrop, the Egyptian government established its first industrial observatory mid-2010, whose remit is to specifically tackle counterfeiting, piracy and the protection of intellectual property rights.
Barakat characterized the creation of the new entity as being the “first time Egypt has ever had a tool to protect and enforce laws related to intellectual property,” piracy and counterfeiting.
He stated that the observatory has been equipped with the necessary tools to collect and exchange information as well as take action to curb counterfeiting.
Barakat added that the observatory, since its inception six months ago, has already received 35 complaints, of which 20 have been addressed through “vigorous action” and another 15 are currently under investigation.
Both Egyptian and Swiss companies have access to the observatory via a 24-hour hotline, the undersecretary pointed out.
To ramp up awareness about the importance of piracy and counterfeiting, six public awareness campaigns have been undertaken in the last six months.
According to Barakat, in this context, the textile industry is of particular concern and focus.
With regards to Phillip Morris’ interest in signing the MOU, it was explained to Daily News Egypt on the sidelines of the event by an anonymous source close to Phillip Morris that Egypt is an important country in the international trade of illegal cigarettes not as a producer, but as a hub, acting as a transit point for cigarettes destined to Europe.
The source added that given the latest hike in cigarette taxes that have swept Europe, following a round of anti-smoking measures and legislation, which have resulted in an overall increase in the price of cigarettes, counterfeited cigarettes emanating from China have become an increasingly lucrative, illicit business.
In addition to the MOU, the undersecretary underscored the importance of reducing impediments to trade between both countries.
To this end, he stated, Egypt is taking steps toward eliminating barriers related to standards, certification and quality issues by having “started a process of approximation of standards and regulations.”
Market surveillance and border inspection are complex and can impose “trade hazards and impediments,” Barakat stated, adding that to overcome these hurdles, the Egyptian government is also undertaking measures to harmonize its standards with European and international ones, “a decision that took 10 years to reach.”
To ensure that Egyptian laboratories practices and standards are in line with EU and international standards, without which they are an obstacle to market access, Barakat said, the Egyptian government has decided to introduce third party testing via the private sector.
A new system for certification and third party testing for cars and components has already gotten underway this month, for instance.
Trade volumes between both countries reached 765 million Swiss francs or LE 4.421 billion in 2009.