Morocco’s burgeoning emergence as North Africa’s economic leader and its high phosphate production are the bedrock of India's interest in establishing cooperation with the country.
Rabat – “We are ready to cooperate with you [India], and further working with you and diversify our partnerships,” Morocco’s Energy Minister Aziz Rabbah said in his welcoming speech at a celebration ceremony of the 70th Anniversary of the Republic Day of India in Rabat.
The minister went on to share Morocco’s determination to continue developing and enhancing the historically strong diplomatic relations between the two countries.
“Over the past three to four years, more than 15 companies have made important direct investments in Morocco,” India’s ambassador to Morocco Shambhu Kumaran said yesterday in his keynote speech.
“I’m happy to note that this is a trend and Morocco is increasingly seen by Indian businesses as a gateway to Africa,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Second Secretary of Commerce at the Indian Embassy, Satbir Singh, emphasized to Morocco World News that India is very satisfied with bilateral relations between the two countries.
The official called Morocco “an emerging economy” and “a leading nation in Africa.”
“India is one of the largest markets for Moroccan Phosphates, Phosphoric acid, and derivatives. This is a win-win partnership for both countries,” Singh added, describing the huge potential of bilateral trade between the two countries.
In an exclusive statement to MWN, Moroccan Ambassador to India Mohamed Malki commended the long-standing Moroccan-Indian cooperation, especially in the fertilizer sector.
“It is important to mention here that supplying fertilizers to India was a political decision to help Delhi to ensure its food security,” Malki said.
Indian companies and investors, he said, “consider Morocco as a safe place to invest, and are totally aware of the great progress the Kingdom has made.”
A strong partnership
Several sector-leading Indian companies have set up plants in Morocco, most notably India’s largest conglomerate, Mahindra.
The multinational car manufacturer has opened its showroom in Casablanca in collaboration with Comicom of Morocco for the sale of Cars, SUVs, Light Commercial Vehicles, Agricultural Machinery, and Generator Sets.
India-Morocco exports also include transport equipment, chemical products, agricultural implements, manufactured metals, spices, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, medicinal products, plastics, synthetic fiber, cotton yarn, and textile products, Malki added.
Morocco, in turn, exports metallic ores and metal scrap, semi-finished products, inorganic chemicals, marble and granite, plants and parts of plants, flour and fish powder, scrap waste, copper debris, steel and iron waste, and paper waste, to name but a few.
The Moroccan official stressed that “Morocco is not only a market of about 40 million consumers but a gateway to a population of 1.2 billion.”
“India and Morocco have established a Centre for Excellence in Information Technology in Casablanca last year. The Centre has already trained nearly 600 Moroccan students in IT courses,” highlighted Singh.
“Moroccan Master Trainers have also been trained in India. Recently, CEIT has started an e-course in Big Data Analytics, organized by the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.”
An India-Morocco agreement means that Moroccan qualifications are recognized in India, and vice versa.
A blossoming relationship
Morocco’s healthy diplomatic relations with India date back to 2015 when the two countries began to collaborate in a range of sectors.
King Mohammed VI’s visit to New Delhi in October 2015, as part of the third India-Africa Forum Summit, marked the launch of Rabat’s ongoing cooperation with India.
During the visit, Moroccan delegation including Defence Minister Abdeltif Loudyi accompanied the King. Loudyi met with India’s Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman in South Block, New Delhi.
The meetings proved to be productive, with the two officials signing Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) covering space, Information Communications Technology (ITC), telemedicine, counter-terrorism, and counter-insurgency.
Moroccan-Indian cooperation continued to strengthen, with the two countries signing two more MoUs in June 2016. The agreements concerned Moroccan phosphates among other investment opportunities
The 2016 MoUs marked the first time Morocco invested in an Asian country.
Meanwhile, since October 2015, Morocco and India have signed 35 agreements. The number of MoUs and agreements represents more than half of those signed since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1957.
The agreements boosted trade exchange to an unprecedented level. As per trade figures from a Statistical Bulletin of the Exchange Office, in 2018 bilateral trade stood at approx $1.8 billion, the highest in the two countries’ history.
Although Indian-Moroccan mutual cooperation has great potential, certain roadblocks are currently holding the business side of the relationship back.
Singh explained that there are currently high customs duties on Indian products. The customs duties make imported Indian goods expensive compared to similar products imported from other countries with whom Morocco has Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
In the absence of Preferential Trade Agreements (PTA), Indian products will remain expensive.
“We hope that with the signing of PTA between India and Morocco, there would be a substantial increase in bilateral trade,” Singh noted. Rabbah also mentioned the possibility of a PTA in his recent speech.
While the Morocco-India diplomatic romance is full of promise, in terms of political cooperation and business potential, the obstacles and challenges must be fully addressed for the relationship to bear fruit.