India, Morocco start new chapter of business cooperation

New Delhi, Oct 28 (IANS) Heralding a new chapter in India’s seven centuries-old relations with Morocco, the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) and the Moroccan Centre for Export Promotion (Maroc Export) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) here during the ongoing India-Africa Forum Summit.

The MoU will allow cooperation and exchange of information related to trade, technical transfer and economic cooperation.

Maroc Export, which has brought a 50-member Morocccan business delegation here, signed a second MoU with India’s PHD Chamber of Commerce “to create synergies between the two organizations for the benefit of the companies residing in their respective countries.”

The business delegation’s visit and the agreements reflect both countries desire to expand the phosphate-centric trade relationship to other sectors. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI is attending the third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) to consolidate Morocco’s relationship with India.

Emphasising Morocco’s possibility of being a springboard for Indian exports and investment into Europe, West Africa as well as to the US, the president of the General Confederation of Moroccan Companies (CGEM) Miriem Bensalah-Chaqroun said it has free trade agreements (FTA) with 55 countries to give it a market of 1 billion people.

“We missed out on the earlier two India-Africa summits, but this time we’re here to stay,” Bensalah-Chaqroun told the gathering at the MoU ceremony, where the guests were welcomed with sweets made of date and milk in traditional Moroccan style.

She said that Moroccan companies were keen to do business with Indian counterparts in the area of innovations, R&D, renewable energy, infrastructure and education, among others, adding that Morocco currently enjoyed a good ranking in ease of doing business.

Morocco is the only African country to have an FTA with the US, besides having 22 such pacts with African nations.

She said Morocco has successfully diversifed its economy, beyond its phosphate exports, by broadening its manufacturing base to include automobiles, aeronautics and an offshoring hub.

FIEO director Ashish Jain said Africa’s development, as evidenced also from Morocco, offered major opportunities for Indian enterprise.

Morocco-India trade relations have scored a steady growth. In 2014, trade between the two countries stood at $1.36 billion, with India’s exports to Morocco amounting to $500.5 million, while imports were valued at $855.8 million.

The balance of trade is generally in favour of Morocco because of India’s imports of phosphoric acid and rock ph’sphate. India sources a large chunk of its rock phosphates and phosphoric acid requirements for its fertiliser industry from Morocco, the world’s biggest phosphate exporter.

India is seeking to explore new ways to expand in energy and infrastructure, as well as innovation and technology, where Morocco ranks second in Africa.

India’s ties with Morocco, that date back to the 14th century visit of Moroccan traveller Ibn Batuta, got a major revival with the 2014 visit of then external affairs minister Salman Khurshid, which also underscored the strategic and economic importance of the North African country.

Bensalah-Chaqroun, who heads a buiness group in Morocco with diverse interests, also highlighted Morocco’s importance as a “stable” country, in a context of the challenges posed by Islamic extremism.

Morocco is pioneering a programme to promote moderate Islam to counter Islamic terrorism in the region.

On Thursday, India’s Amity University is slated to sign memoranda of cooperation respectively with Morocco’s Al Akhawayn University and ESCA School of Management for exchange in the field of higher education.

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