Brazil’s commitment to the growing linkages with Rabat comes as Morocco gathers unprecedented momentum in Latin America.
In a series of tweets that followed Morocco’s Nasser Bourita’s recent trip to the country, the Latin American giant announced it has struck a historic defense deal with Rabat.
The ministry tweeted on June 13 that Brazil has given a supportive nod to Morocco’s ambitions to develop its own defense industry.
The agreement, which according to the Brazilian foreign ministry includes “investment cooperation and facilitation” in military industry, is the first of its kind between Brazil and a Maghreb country.
The move, the statement added, “is an important investment destination, with the participation of companies such as Bunge Fertilizantes, Neobus, Randon, and Votorantim Group.”
The deal is already being welcomed in Rabat as the ultimate proof of Brazil’s adherence to Morocco’s most vital interests. The underlying purpose of the agreement is to provide bilateral platform to facilitate Morocco’s desired shift towards relative self-sufficiency in the defense sector.
Currently one of Africa’s heaviest importers of military equipments, Rabat is intent on developing its own industry to reduce, and potentially end, overreliance on foreign-made weaponry.
Along with the investment and business components of the defense deal, the Brazilian ministry explained in a subsequent tweet, that the two countries signed a Framework Agreement on cooperation and defense.
The framework entails promoting knowledge in military science and technology and providing a basis for Morocco to acquire defense products and services. This means in addition to helping Morocco’s defense ambitions, Brazil will avail its own resources for training Moroccan officers in an array of state-of-the-art military technologies.
The announcement from Brazil is far from Rabat’s only move to foster its own defense industry, however. In late May, Liam Fox, the British Secretary of State for International Trade, visited Morocco to discuss and explore possibilities of advancing commercial and political connections with Rabat.
During his visit, Fox said in a press conference that the defense sector was an important component of the increasingly “promising” connections between Rabat and London.
The Brit’s enthusiasm was later confirmed by Moroccan sources, with a Moroccan diplomat indicating that part of what Fox meant by “promising” prospects for defense cooperation entailed investing in a joint venture with Britain’s Chemical Military Product (CMP), a leader in the conception of military explosives and related weaponry.
There are also whispers of negotiations with Spain and France in the military aviation sector. Already a continental giant in terms of its air capabilities (the country is among the restricted circle of countries with the latest F16 fighters), Rabat is intent on upgrading its defense fleet. The country even nourishes ambitions of developing its own industries in the long term to supply its naval and air forces with made-in-Morocco equipment.
Latin America offensive
Brazil’s latest move comes after the country vowed to support Morocco’s Western Sahara stance, calling the territorial conflict an “important issue for Moroccan territorial integrity.” The Latin American country’s notable, unambiguous shift towards Morocco is part of a pattern that some are already dubbing a Moroccan “diplomatic remontada” in Latin America.
The idea is that, after falling behind in convincing Latin American countries of the “historical legitimacy” of its Western Sahara claims, as well as the seriousness and reliability of its plan for a political settlement in the decades-long conflict, Rabat is ready engage the region on a whole new basis.
The plan, according to observers, is to embark on a charm offensive to gain the support of a region whose deep-seated association with Marxism and “revolutionary movements” has meant that it has traditionally been more receptive of Polisario’s claims. With Brazil, Surinam, Chile, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic all recently breaking with that tradition, observers say the plan is so far working for Morocco.