afrol News, 18 April - Morocco is heading for a new role in word trade relations. The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, on a visit to Casablanca said that his country planned to use Morocco as the springboard to access the vast African and European Union (EU) markets as the north African country is just 15 km away from Spain.
According to the Iranian news agency IRNA, Mahathir was speaking to some 100 businessmen at a meeting in Casablanca on Wednesday, saying that the successful economy of his country was eager to collaborate more closely with Morocco. The north-western African country has intern-African trade agreement and is an associate to the EU. "Morocco is just a doorstep to the EU and a key entry point to the rest of the African nations," Mahathir said.
- Moroccan companies should explore the possibility of partnering Malaysian companies to bid for projects not only in Morocco but also elsewhere in the region, he added.
Morocco indeed is in a key trade position, both geographically and due to its regional integration efforts. Signing the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement with the EU in 1996, trade with Europe has increased significantly and Morocco also has access to certain EU development funds. More than half of Morocco's trade now is with the EU. In 2000, Morocco exported goods with a value of 6,0 million euro to the EU and imported goods worth 7,7 million euro from the EU.
On the African front, Morocco has bilateral trade agreements with various North African countries. In May 2001 Morocco was one of the promoters of the Agadir free trade declaration together with Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan.
However, Morocco's active participation in the work of the Organisation of African Unity and the Arab Maghreb Union is coloured by the conflict in Western Sahara. Most African countries condemn the Moroccan occupation of the territory, severely influencing Moroccan bilateral relations on the continent.
While Morocco is seeking to improve trade relations with African countries and other non-Western countries, the most important expectations are to the implementation of the Euro-Mediterranean free trade zone to be established by 2010. The envisaged free trade zone also make Morocco more attractive to non-European countries - like Malaysia - which can find lower price and cultural barriers entering the Euro-African trade zone here.
Sources: Based on
press reports, EU sources and afrol archives