The history of world trade has usually been an evolutionary one, with ports and transport routes forming and declining over generations.
Occasionally, however, a single date stands out in sharp relief, a date when before is very different to after. One such date was 17 November 1869 when the Suez Canal opened, linking the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea – and ultimately the North Atlantic Ocean with the Indian Ocean.
This slashed thousands of miles off the journey from such ports as Hong Kong, Shanghai and Mumbai to Liverpool or Rotterdam. From its beginning, the global trade pivot point was linked with the then still relatively new trading hub of Hong Kong. This connection persists today.
In the same way that Hong Kong links Mainland China with the world in at large, especially the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, so Suez lies at the fulcrum of Africa, Asia and Europe potentially making it a valuable business destination.
Just as Hong Kong and the neighbouring Shenzhen Special Economic Zone have prospered, eventually forming key elements of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, so Egypt has established the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZONE).
The two came together at the Belt and Road Summit in 2020, and zone representatives came to Hong Kong in May this year to explore the possibility of listing a real-estate investment trust (REIT) in the city.
China set up the China-Egypt TEDA Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone in the Sokhna Industrial Zone on the Red Sea coast, near Egypt’s new administrative capital east of Cairo. TEDA projects include power generation and textiles.
A delegation from the General Authority of the SCZONE earlier this year conducted a tour, led by Mr Waleid Gamal El-Dien, the Zone’s Chairman , to Guangzhou and Hong Kong to meet officials and companies operating in the fields of maritime transport and logistics services. Delegates met representatives of property firm Hutchison Group, which signed an agreement with SCZONE to manage and operate the container terminal at Sokhna Port.
The SCZONE delegation met Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL). During the meeting, the two sides discussed cooperation in the field of providing integrated logistics services at the ports of SCZONE.
To discuss finance and investment, the delegation also met officials of CCB International (Holdings), a unit of China Construction Bank, as well as representatives of CIC International (Hong Kong), the Hong Kong branch of the sovereign wealth fund, which invests in assets abroad.
SCZONE representatives said they sought to benefit from partnership services with these institutions in providing financial services to its investors.
The delegation also looked at digital development, meeting officials from InvestHK, members of the Environmental Business Council and clean energy firms as Egypt adopts green-economy incentives, and representatives of One As1a Company, a Legan Group company specialising in data centres and related digital services.
Looking at entrepreneurship and start-up development, the delegation also reached out to Hong Kong’s start-up incubator Cyberport.
Underlining green development in the Suez Zone, Port Said, at the Mediterranean entrance of the canal, is among the early-adopters for bunkering – refuelling – ships using green methanol rather than fossil-fuel bunker oil. The port this month performed its inaugural refuelling of a Maersk container ship, the first such methanol-driven vessel, en-route from Singapore to Europe, the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone announced.