September 19th, 2012
04:18 PM GMT
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Suez, Egypt (CNN) - The Suez Canal is a crucial seaway and money maker for Egypt. Around 10 percent of oceanic trade will by pass through these narrow waters, earning Egypt over $5 billion a year. It is now helping to boost Egypt's economy even more.

It has long been a vital link between East and West. The Suez Canal sits at a crossroad, linking Asia, Africa and Europe.

Now Egypt wants to squeeze more out of this strategic location.

The idea is to turn this dusty 20 square kilometer patch of land into a special industrial zone called SEZone or Suez Economic Zone.

And one of the first order's of business: making it easier for companies to do business in Egypt by cutting through red tape and government bureaucracy.

Chairman Ahmed Amin told CNN’s Ian Lee that it's all about streamlining investment.

“It is a one stop shop and it avoids the part when it comes to the red tape, the corruption, and things like that. It is very important for the investor when he wants to start a project anywhere in the world to know the procedures in advance,” said Amin.

This building will be that one stop shop, and house everything a company needs to set up and operate in Egypt. The idea was taken out of the Chinese playbook.

The Chinese are helping Egypt set up this zone – and signs of the partnership are clear. The Chinese investment firm TEDA is the first company poised to start development.

“The new area of the 6 km of land Teda is going to develop in eight to 10 years will include six different types of industries. At the end of the day we hope to reach a total investment of $1-$1.2 billion,” said Li Daixin, vice president of TEDA-Egypt Investment.

It's the area's easy access to ports and foreign markets that attracted TEDA, part of the company's "New Silk Road, New Oasis" initiative, according to Li Daixin.

“Chinese companies are trying to establish a new Silk Road to grow the relationship between the East and West. Egypt is important in establishing this new Silk Road,” he said.

Not only is the location optimal but also Egypt's labor pool, access to duty free imports of materials and favorable trade agreements.

“When it comes to being an investor, it is opening up several markets with a population of 1.8 billion people, so I think it's a great opportunity to utilize these agreements in Egypt,” said Amin.

That's free trade access to roughly a quarter of the world's population and includes such markets as the United States, Europe, the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Egypt is set to benefit greatly. The plan predicts 120 thousands jobs will be created once the project is completed and a new city, Sokhna will rise from the desert.

The old ways of doing business are fading according to Amin. If it comes together, the Suez Canal will soon be known as more than just a shortcut, but as an economic hub.

Filed under: Along the silk roadBusiness

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Along the Silk Road

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