Mr. Jamale CHOUAIBI, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco in Vietnam. (Photo: CPV)

Reporter: We will be celebrating on March, 27, 2021 the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Morocco. What significance does it hold for you?

Mr. Jamale CHOUAIBIMarch 27 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This commemoration offers an opportunity to celebrate the friendship between the Moroccan and Vietnamese peoples, to assess progress in cooperation between our two countries and reflect on the best ways to further enhance and expand the scope of this cooperation.

The foundations of the historical relations between Morocco and Vietnam are laid on the shared historical memory. This dates back to 1940’s and 1950’s, before the independence of Morocco, when Many Moroccan soldiers sent by France to Southeast Asia to help reassert the country’s colonial dominance in the region got disillusioned and defected from French forces to join Viet Minh fight for independence under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh.

Theses defections were motivated by the fact that both countries were under the yoke of colonialism. They were triggered mainly by the exile by France of the late King of Morocco, His Majesty Mohammed V in 1953 and by the mutual admiration between the liberation movements of Morocco and Vietnam.

One of the prominent figures sent from Morocco to Vietnam in 1949 to help convincing Moroccan soldiers to rally the Movement for independence and wage a psychological war against the occupier was Omar Lahrech, nicknamed Maarouf, who was given a Vietnamese war name Anh Ma, granted the rank of General and had close contacts with the leaders of Vietnam at that time.

The Morocco Gate in Ba Vi district, Hanoi, built between 1956 and 1960 by those Moroccan soldiers who left the French army stands out today as a testimony of these shared memory and solidarity. The gate was built with Vietnamese materials, inspired by the Moorish architectural style of Moroccan imperial cities.

The Morocco Gate in Ba Vi district, Ha Noi. (Photo: CPV)

Reporter: How would you assess the state of bilateral relations between Vietnam and Morocco?

Mr. Jamale CHOUAIBI: Before getting into bilateral relations I would like to give an overview on the fundamental principles guiding Morocco’s Foreign policy many of which we do share with Vietnam.

Morocco has been always committed to the promotion of peace throughout the world and more particularly in Africa. Morocco is one of the longstanding supporters and contributors of troops to the UN Peace keeping operations. Morocco is also adamantly attached to settlements of disputes through dialogue, negotiation and mediation. Moreover, Morocco is an advocator of respect for the principles of territorial integrity and noninterference in domestic affairs of States;

Morocco is committed to the consolidation of South-South cooperation as an important means to address economic political social and environmental global challenges through sharing experience and lessons learned and by promoting knowledge and expertise among developing countries.

The political relations between the two countries have witnessed important development, thanks to the ascending pace of high level delegations exchange, on the governmental and parliamentary level. In this regard, the latest official visit of the Chairwoman of the National Assembly of Vietnam, Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, to Morocco in March 2019, and the visit of the President of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Morocco, Mr. Habib El Malki to Vietnam, in December 2017, were the latest major milestone in fostering the political and parliamentary cooperation between the two countries.

Morocco and Vietnam maintain regular consultations, through the Joint Commission of Cooperation (JCC). The two countries held 4 sessions of JCC and 5 sessions of political consultations. The 5th session of the JCC and the 6th session of the political consultations are scheduled for Next November in Rabat.

Trade between Morocco and Vietnam increased by nearly 50% between 2015 and 2019 Vietnam stands out today as Morocco’s second trade partner in ASEAN region.

A Trade Agreement was signed recently between the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Vietnam and the Ministry of Industry, Investment, Trade and Digital Economy of Morocco in order to promote cooperation in numerous fields of shared interest, mainly renewable energy, textile, clothing, electronic and mechanical industries, chemical industry and fertilizers production;

Another MOU between the two Ministries in charge of commerce was also signed recently, establishing a sub-committee on trade and industrial cooperation with the mission of promoting bilateral trade and supporting the SMEs through the implementation of measures identified to this end.

Reporter: What are the prospects for future cooperation between the two countries?

Mr. Jamale CHOUAIBI: Morocco and Vietnam share a lot of similarities favoring further cooperation and coordination in the future namely geostrategic position respectively as entry gates to Africa and Europe and to South-East Asia; political stability; dynamic emerging economies; sustained economic growth; policies of diversification of trade partners, and human resources capacity.

There is a strong political will from both sides to further enhance and expand their bilateral partnership. This is evidenced by the increasing number of agreements signed between the two countries encompassing a wide range of sectors such as trade and investment, energy and mining, banking, education and training, Air services in addition to MoUs between several universities and cities of both countries.

Even if the two-way trade volume has until now failed to reach its potential and meet our expectations, it is expanding year after year.

The appointment in the near future by Morocco of an honorary Consul in Ho Chi Minh City, which is the business and financial hub of Vietnam, will give a further boost to trade exchange and business opportunities between the two countries. The twinning of Casablanca, the industrial and financial hub of Morocco, with HCM City in the future will undoubtedly create a new momentum in the development of our bilateral cooperation.

The ambitious sectorial Plans and Visions that both countries have launched pertaining to renewable energies, digital transformations, tourism, agriculture, infrastructure and logistics, industrial and technological acceleration with the aim to become leading emergent economies in their respective regions should constitute another opportunity for Morocco and Vietnam to share their experience, expertise and know how through the setting up of joint sectorial committees dedicated to this end.

Reporter: What are the opportunities for cooperation at the regional level given that both countries are key players in their respective regions Africa and ASEAN?

Mr. Jamale CHOUAIBI: At regional level, Morocco has placed its home continent Africa at the top of its development priorities.

Under the enlightened guidance of His Majesty the King Mohammed VI, Morocco has adopted a strategic diplomatic approach with the main objective to develop partnership models with various African countries based on the concepts of co-development, South-South solidarity, and a strong social and human dimension.

Thanks to this Royal Vision, Morocco is today the 1st investor in West Africa and the 2nd investor at the continental level.

Morocco enjoys a substantial multiform presence in Africa in vital sectors such as banking, insurance, energy, telecommunications

Also, Morocco undertakes various partnerships and capacity development actions in priority areas such as water, sanitation, customs, airports management, etc.

Morocco focuses on positioning its self as both a hub and foothold for international companies with an interest in expanding across the African continent;

Casablanca Financial City has become a financial hub for the French-speaking African market. Many of the major multinational manufacturers that have set up production units in Morocco have extended their activities to the African markets. 

Vietnam for its side has always attached special importance to its relations with African countries and is seeking to promote comprehensive cooperation, especially in potential areas such as trade, investment, energy, environment, information and communication technology, agriculture, labor and tourism.

Morocco can serve as a facilitator for Vietnam to consolidate its presence in this promising continent and can work together in Africa, including trough joint-ventures projects, trilateral technical and economic cooperation, just like the current initiatives carried out by Morocco with other Asian countries such as Japan, China and South Korea.

Our ambition is to be able to open direct maritime lines by signing the Sister Port MoU between “L’Agence Nationale des Ports” and Saigon Port Company to build a strong logistic chain between Morocco and Vietnam as a platform for export to Africa which would allow Vietnam to benefit from the legal arsenal set up between Morocco and many African countries.

Vietnam, through its strategic location in South-East Asia and as a member of the emerging “ASEAN Economic Community”, offers large perspectives of promising economic cooperation with Morocco.

Morocco was the first African and Arab country to have had the privilege to join the MRC as a partner. It is a part of our ongoing foreign policy strategy, under the guidance of His Majesty the King aiming at diversifying our partners and enhancing South -South Cooperation which is at the forefront of our priorities.

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between Morocco and MRC in 2017 to expand exchange and cooperation between the two parties in a variety of fields ranging from energy, to irrigated agriculture, food security, water quality and environment.

Morocco also signed the instruments of its accession to the Treaty in 2016. The principles of TAC are in full conformity with Morocco’s policy namely noninterference in domestic affairs and peaceful settlement of disputes through dialogue and diplomatic means.

Moreover, Morocco has always sought to diversify its partners and reinforce its partnerships at all levels beyond traditional partners.  To develop closer ties with ASEAN countries, stand out today as a priority for Morocco which values South South cooperation.

A signal that Morocco is seeking to build stronger relations with southeast Asia is substantiated by the submission of its candidacy to become ASEAN’s Sectorial Dialogue partner in 2018. This will open up new horizons for substantial and more qualitative cooperation with this integrated economic community in areas falling within ASEAN’s community goals comprising the three fundamental pillars namely political and security community, economic community and socio-cultural community that are closely interconnected.

An ambitious Action Plan has been submitted by Morocco pertaining to the Three aforementioned priority areas.

Moreover, the House of Representatives of the Kingdom Morocco was admitted as a new ASEAN Inter- Parliamentary Assembly observer member on the 10th September 2020 in Hanoi during the closing ceremony of the 41st General Assembly of AIPA under the chairmanship of Vietnam. Morocco becomes the 1st Arab and African country to obtain such a status.

Given the fact that both countries are key players in their respective regions, Morocco is poised to serve as a gateway to African markets mainly in western Africa where Morocco has a multifaceted presence and has cumulated a precious experience in conducting business and carrying out projects in diverse sectors.

Likewise, Vietnam is deemed as an ideal gateway to ASEAN markets given its leading regional economic recovery considered by all as a success story.

The celebration of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries should be taken as an opportunity to open a new era where our bilateral relations will be brought to new heights and become even more closer and more comprehensive.

Reporter: Thank you so much!