Egypt hoping to replace Turkey in the Russian market

Relations between Egypt and Turkey have been steadily declining since the 2013 coup d’état of President Mohamed Morsi - with no indications of improvement. But could Egypt’s eagerness to replace Turkey in Russian markets make things worse?

Turkey and Egypt have shared an unstable relationship over the past few years, with its breakdown stemming from Turkey’s disproval of the coup d’état of Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, President Mohamed Morsi. Turkey’s support for Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood have been widely vocalised, leading to a sharp decline in what was once good relations between the two nations.

In the aftermath of Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian Su-24 fighter jet that was violating Turkish airspace on 24 November 2015, Egypt has been quick to demonstrate the opportunity for an alterative relationship that Moscow may be able to rely on.

Since the shooting down of the jet, relations between Turkey and Russia have been rapidly declining. Russia has recently placed a number of sanctions on its trade with Turkey, prohibiting or restricting the imports of Turkish goods such as meat, dairy products, fish, seafood, nuts, fruits, vegetables and herbs.

The sanctions that have been placed on Turkey are predicted to have a negative effect on both Turkey and Russia alike. But with Turkey’s exports of agricultural goods to Russia equating to around 1.3 billion USD, Cairo have stepped in and asked Moscow to provide it with a list of Turkish goods that have been prohibited or restricted in order to take advantage of the situation and strike a deal with Russia that could replace Turkish goods with Egyptian goods.

Egyptian agricultural exports to Russia currently range from 600 to 650 thousand tonnes annually, and are worth approximately 310 million USD. The expected boost in trade could help to alleviate Egypt’s on-going shortage of hard currency, and bolster the countries capacity for imports and manufacturing.

Since Egypt and Turkey do not share good relations, Cairo has taken the opportunity to have consultations with Moscow based on figuring out what goods will be the most important and the most needed over the impending period.

Over the upcoming year, Egypt is hoping to increase its exports to Russia by at least 15 per cent, but critics have suggested that Egypt may be biting off a little bit more that it can chew, due to beliefs that the country will be unable to substantially fill the trade gap left by Turkey. Some have described Egypt’s desires as “wishful thinking”, while pointing out that Egypt will be unable to produce all of the goods needed to replace Turkey.

Structural issues such as power shortages and an overvalued currency are likely to be factors that will hinder Egypt’s chances of its attempt at export growth. Also, the largest share of Turkish exports to Russia consists of products that Egypt does not produce at all. Nonetheless, the sheer initiative and eagerness that Egypt has displayed in trying to replace Turkey in Russia’s international trade market, will more than likely further decrease the relations shared between Ankara and Cairo.