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Leuthard looks to increase ties with Egypt

Swiss Economics Minister Doris Leuthard, on an economic mission to Cairo, has held talks on business relations with several members of the Egyptian government.

"For the Swiss economy, Egypt presents enormous potential, not just because it is a big country, but also because of its geographic location," Leuthard told swissinfo on Wednesday.

She said the country could become the centre of the pharmaceutical industry in the Middle East.
The Egyptian government in power since 2004 had undertaken a series of reforms but "many problems still remain", the minister said.

Some 40 per cent of the population (60 per cent of women) is illiterate. Egypt also had a lot of catching up to do on infrastructure.

"We spoke very openly about these problems," Leuthard explained. She said she was "impressed by this culture of open discussion".

In December 2008, the Swiss parliament placed Egypt on its list of seven priority countries for cooperation and economic development.

The next stage of Leuthard's trip is to visit some Swiss firms present in Egypt. She will also attend the inauguration in Alexandria of the National Customs Training Centre, co-financed by Switzerland.

The minister is due to return to Bern on Friday.

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