Following its recent divorce from the European Union, the UK is seeking opportunities for economic growth with Morocco, one of its long-time trading partners.
Rabat- Faced with a December 31, 2020 deadline, the UK has a narrow 11 month transition period in which to negotiate a trade deal with the European Union (EU), after officially exiting the organization on January 31.
Recent commentaries surrounding the issue suggest that it will be very difficult for the two parties to agree on the terms of a trade deal, given their ideological differences. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s emphasis is on maintaining the UK’s sovereignty and independence, while the European Union wants the UK to adhere to EU commerce regulations if it is to continue trading with EU member states.
During a speech in Greenwich on February 3, Johnson drew a hard line against any deal involving Britain’s alignment with EU regulations, giving preference to a deal absent of trade tariffs between the UK and EU member states.
Brussels is demanding that the UK maintain the EU’s social and environmental standards, as well as a list of trade regulations that EU member states currently follow, causing the UK to look elsewhere for dependable trade partners.
Window of Opportunity
Last October, an association agreement was signed between Morocco and the UK guaranteeing their continued diplomatic and trade relations as they have existed for eight centuries.
The United Kingdom made up 4.6% of Morocco’s Foreign Direct Investment in 2018, making it Morocco’s 8th largest foreign investor.
If British Ambassador to Morocco Thomas Reilly’s optimism regarding the “special relationship” of the two nations is any indicator, the future for the post-Brexit UK will likely involve increased trade volume with Morocco, a huge source of potential for both sides.
Given that the UK is in search of strengthened trade outside the EU, investing in Morocco is a strategic option. Morocco offers massive economic potential as the “gateway to Africa,” ideally situated to link trade between Europe and Africa.
Morocco’s role as a continental leader makes its profitability a win for all of Africa, vis-a-vis the interconnectivity of commerce and trade on the continent. This interconnectivity clearly impacts African nations, but would also benefit a major foreign investor by providing it greater access to the rest of the continent.
Though the UK is fixed on maintaining its independence in future trade practice, contact with the EU will be inevitable no matter where Britain chooses to trade.
Morocco has an association agreement with the EU, comparable to the one it signed with Britain last October. Through another financial agreement between Morocco and the EU, Morocco has received over €6 billion in loans since 2011 to fund sectors like sustainable energy and transport, areas where the UK desires to break from regulations imposed by the EU.
The EU is Morocco’s largest trading partner, comprising over 56% of Morocco’s trade investments in 2017, according to the European Commission (EC).
The EC claims that its goal is “to create new trade and investment opportunities and ensure better integration of Morocco’s economy into the EU single market” through deals like the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA).
Though the difference in attitudes towards EU policy is evident between Morocco and Great Britain, future trade potential does not appear limited in light of that. The UK has repeatedly vocalized its support for Morocco in its commitment to sustainable development and environmental consciousness.
The ultimate goal for the UK is not to oppose all of the policies that the EU imposes on its member states, but rather to establish its autonomy and independence as an international trading partner outside of the EU.
The mutual relationship between Morocco and Great Britain has produced substantial evidence of their aligning goals for trade and development. Given the deep ties that already exist between the two nations, nothing is preventing their trading relationship from exceeding the terms of their most recent association agreement.
The prospect of greater trade between Morocco and the UK makes for a brighter future beyond their respective borders. The UK can capitalize on having a secure business partner to make up for any recession in trade volume with the EU, and Morocco can utilize an increase in capital to pursue its development goals.
As a leader among African nations, Morocco’s economic success will indubitably benefit the rest of the continent, and the UK can fund that success while simultaneously finding new opportunities to directly invest elsewhere on the continent.