Morocco and Qatar have kicked off the first round of negotiations on a new Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in Rabat, according to the semi professional, state-friendly website Morocco World News.
The second round of negotiations is expected to take place in Doha, according to the Rabat website, which has links to Qatar. Details on the meetings are yet to be unveiled, it reports.
The Rabat meeting was led by the Director of the International Cooperation and Trade Agreements Department at Qatar’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry Saleh Abdullah Al Mana and the Director General of Trade at Morocco’s Ministry of Industry and Trade Abdelouahed Rahal.
Much to the chagrin of other GCC countries, Morocco has very good relations with Qatar. At the beginning of a four year blockade against this tiny peninsular by the rest of the GCC, which finally ended in January 2021, Morocco was quick off the mark to send food shipments there, which was noted by the royal family in Doha.
Even this year, Morocco helped Qatar in the organization of the World Cup by sending volunteers and cybersecurity experts to the country ahead of the tournament. The two countries also signed an information-sharing agreement in September to facilitate the organization of the competition, which Morocco had earlier hoped would be hosted by itself.
Between 2017 and 2021, the trade volume between the two countries increased by 130% reaching $207 million, up from $90 million, according to MWN, which doesn’t cite its sources. For Morocco, it’s clear to see the benefits of Qatar investing in this north African country whose economy is being affected by post covid doldrums and a drought which has left small scale farmers devastated.
Morocco desperatly needs foreign investment as the economy slides, pump price of diesel has almost doubled and basic food stuffs are being price-hiked as a consequece. A number of initiaves to counter these trends have been initiated by Rabat but they will take a number of years for a knock on effect to be felt.
An FTA with Qatar which may well bring new flows of FDI would be very welcome in the North African Kingdom. But for Doha too, there would be rich pickings. There have been rumours of Doha eying the banking sector in Morocco which is badly in need of reform, beset with corruption, poor infrastructure and wholesale ineptitude with some of the country’s banks who let the sector down like BMCI and Credit du Maroc.