Egypt: Trade Agreement With US May Be Tied to Release of Nour

Al-Mesryoon web site reported that the Egyptian American Council may resume its meetings next week to discuss a number of outstanding issues between the two countries. The council is chaired by Gamal Mubarak, head of the NDP Policies Committee, and Ambassador John Calzcher. The Egyptian delegation includes NDP business figures close to Gamal Mubarak. The meetings will highlight the partnership with the US as a prelude to concluding a free trade agreement between the two countries, with the Egyptian goods receiving a favored status in the American markets. The meetings will also probe the lifting of restrictions imposed on the software programs and sophisticated technology to Egypt, which was approved by Washington but it was put on hold after the relations reached a political stalemate due to a number of disputing issuses.

The sources suggested that political reform will top the negotiations, especially that the US has criticized the Egyptian regime for its slow pace of democratization and its failure to honor reform pledges in spite of the $2 billion aid by the US allocated mainly to the reform process. The same sources expected that American side will discuss with its Egyptian counterpart the issue of Al Ghad Party Leader Ayman Nour, which might be linked with the free trade agreement with Egypt.