A relationship that seeks more togetherness

Almost 600,000 Moroccans live in Belgium, according to estimates. People of Moroccan origin, whether they have Belgian nationality or a residence permit, make up 4% of the Belgian population. This shows how close and multifaceted the relationship between Rabat and Brussels is. “Relations are deeper because there is a large Moroccan community living in Belgium and fully integrated there”, welcomed the Belgian Minister of State, André Flahaut, who trusted the microphone of “Opinion”. According to the Minister and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rabat and Brussels are even more determined to raise a gear with a view to a stronger partnership.

True, they are against the World Cup held in Qatar, but they are far from such political relations, he said, in an amused tone. Morocco and Belgium currently maintain good relations against the backdrop of a convergence of views at the political level and also of interests at the economic level.

The last visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Moroccan origin, Hadja Lahbib, to Morocco brought good news by confirming for the first time the clear support of Belgium for the autonomy plan. This support was renewed a few weeks later by the President of Wallonia, Elio De Rupo, who traveled to Morocco on November 9 where he met the Head of Government, Aziz Akhannouch, and many Moroccan officials.

This position has a lot of meaning and importance in the eyes of the Kingdom, according to Morocco’s ambassador to Belgium, Mohammed Ameur. Brussels is thus following in the footsteps of European countries that have done the same and that are more likely to recognize the relevance of the Moroccan position.

Brussels wants to go further

Behind this support for the national cause is a desire for rapprochement with Morocco, a traditional and privileged partner of the European Union. The two countries are planning a deeper and wider cooperation, a mission that currently falls to the Moroccan-Belgian High Commission to be held in 2023. According to the sources we consulted, the exact date has not yet been set.

The work of the commission should, in principle, lead to a new partnership that lasts for five years. This cooperation also concerns regional governments. Rabat and Wallonia, for example, have been involved in a partnership since 1999.

In fact, the High Commission should take advantage of the achievements of the Economic Mission led by Princess Astrid that took place in November 2018. The Belgian Princess, it should be remembered, went there accompanied by 450 businessmen representing 30 sectors and politicians with the goal of improving business and above all bringing together economic operators from both countries. A mission considered fruitful because it led to the signing of twenty trade agreements and the promotion of Belgian FDI in Morocco.

Trade, FDI… the weak link

To achieve this, there is still a long way to go. Trade is very low compared to stated ambitions. According to the latest statistics from the Belgian government, Morocco is only the 42nd customer of Belgium with an import volume not exceeding 395.54 million euros, or 0.25% of Belgian exports to the world. ‘foreign.

In terms of exports, Morocco is far from a leading supplier for Belgium, the Kingdom is ranked 51st in terms of exporters. Belgian imports from Morocco for the first half of 2021 amount to €194.49 million. The balance of trade in 2021 favors Belgium in the amount of € 201.04 million.

The two countries seem, having seen many exchanges of business delegations, aware that the trade engine must continue. An important objective for the government that sent the Federal Minister of Economy and Labor Pierre-Yves Dermagne to Morocco on May 17. The development of investments and cooperation between companies through joint ventures was the focus of a meeting with of the boss of CGEM, Chakib Alj.

The results did not fail to be felt immediately within CGEM itself. An investment of 2 billion euros in Morocco was announced by the group of Moroccan businessmen of the World (MeM) in the Flemish region of Belgium. This investment, it should be noted, will be made over the next 6 to 12 months.

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