Rabat – “The United Kingdom is looking forward to developing its bilateral relation with Morocco in several fields,” announced the Director of the Middle East and North Africa Department at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Stephanie Al-Qaq.
The British diplomat made the announcement during a press conference on Thursday, February 13, in Rabat.
Al-Qaq was in Morocco on an official visit to meet with senior Moroccan officials, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita.
The Association Agreement between Morocco and the UK, signed in October 2019, represents the cornerstone of future cooperation between the two kingdoms, stated Al-Qaq.
The agreement not only guarantees the continuity of Morocco-UK relations post-Brexit, but it also serves as the first step for unprecedented growth in bilateral cooperation, according to the British official.
Director of the MENA Department at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Stephanie Al-Qaq.
Photo credit: MWN / Amine Bakkari
The current transitional period in the UK, after the country officially left the European Union on January 31, encourages Britain to look into developing its cooperation and trade ties beyond Europe. Morocco, as one of the UK’s greatest allies in Africa, will surely benefit from Britain’s new vision, affirmed Al-Qaq.
Climate change is one of the main issues that the UK is looking forward to tackling hand-in-hand with Morocco.
The upcoming 2020 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26), scheduled to take place in Scotland’s Glasgow, was one of the main topics of discussions between the British official and the Moroccan FM, she recalled.
The UK would like to benefit from Morocco’s experience in organizing the event and in tackling climate change. In 2016, the city of Marrakech hosted the 2016 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 22).
According to Al-Qaq, there is so much growth potential in Morocco. The UK is ready to make a series of engagements to help Morocco exploit its potential, notably in the fields of education, trade, culture, and security.
In terms of education, there are several partnerships in the making between Moroccan and British higher education institutions. Universities from the two kingdoms will cooperate in several scientific fields. The cooperation will be based on innovation and research, said the senior official.
The noticeably growing use of the English language in Morocco will facilitate such partnerships, she added.
“English is the language of the world, the language of tomorrow,” declared Al-Qaq, before expressing her satisfaction with the English language’s increasing value in Morocco.
The growing trade between Morocco and the UK make the British official feel very optimistic about the future of economic ties between the countries.
“Trade value between Morocco and the UK currently stands at £2.3 billion (around MAD 29 billion),” revealed Thomas Reilly, the British Ambassador to Morocco, who hosted the conference.
When asked about the competition between Moroccan and European agricultural products, Al-Qaq said that the British market is open to all.
“Moroccan tomatoes are the best,” said Al-Qaq lightheartedly, encouraging Morocco to further promote its agricultural products.
British Ambassador to Morocco, Thomas Reilly. Photo credit: MWN / Amine Bakkari
Tourism is also one of Morocco’s strengths, emphasized the official.
According to the British Ambassador, more than 750,000 British tourists visit Morocco annually, spending the second-highest number of nights in Moroccan tourist accommodations out of all nationalities.
British tourists also spend a lot in Morocco, revealed Reilly.
“When British tourists visit Morocco, they don’t stay in cheap hotels. They can spend hundreds of dollars a night,” he said.
Morocco as a tourist destination, however, should be further promoted in the UK, recommended Al-Qaq.
One way to strengthen Moroccan tourism is the promotion of cultural heritage, especially through exchange between Morocco and the UK.
The British Ambassador gave an example of the Volubilis archaeological site near the city of Meknes. In order to promote the site, the British Embassy invited academics and filmmakers from the University of Cambridge to produce a documentary about the Roman ruins.
Finally, in the field of security, Morocco and the UK share a similar vision. They both adopt a soft power approach in their foreign policy, said Al-Qaq: “We have similar values and similar objectives.”
On the Libyan crisis, for instance, both countries are in favor of a political solution based on a UN-led process, she explained.
“Morocco is a key player in regional security and security is the key to development,” the official continued.
At the end of the conference, the two British diplomats reiterated their optimism about the future of relations between Morocco and the UK and stressed the enormous potential that Morocco has on all levels.
“When I first came to Morocco, I was like a boy in a sweet shop,” recalled the British Ambassador, referring to the beauty of Morocco and the opportunities the country offers.
The year 2020 marks the start of a new phase in relations between Morocco and the UK, with Britain ready to support Morocco’s development.
However, whether the North African country will be able to put its potential to optimal use or not depends on its government and people’s ingenuity.
“Moroccans must take the initiative,” encouraged Al-Qaq.