Interview of H.E Ambassador Mr. Jamale Chouaibi to The World and Vietnam Report, 27th March 2021

16/04/2021 596

60 years of Viet Nam-Morocco relations: Towards a closer and more comprehensive ties

Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Viet Nam-Morocco diplomatic relations will open a new chapter to elevate the bilateral relationship to a new height.

March 27 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. 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.

A historical foundation

The foundations of the historical relations between Morocco and Viet Nam are laid on the shared historical memory. This dates back to the 1940s and 1950s, 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.

These 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 Viet Nam.

One of the prominent figures sent from Morocco to Viet Nam in 1949 to help to convince 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 had close contacts with the leaders of Viet Nam at that time.

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

Before getting into bilateral relations I would like to give an overview of the fundamental principles guiding Morocco’s Foreign policy many of which we do share with Viet Nam.

Significant developments

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 Peacekeeping 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 non-interference 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 Viet Nam, Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Nga, 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 Viet Nam, in December 2017, were the latest major milestone in fostering the political and parliamentary cooperation between the two countries.

Morocco and Viet Nam 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.

The 4th session of the Viet Nam-Morocco Joint Committee and the 5th Political Consultation between the two Ministries of Foreign Affairs in Ha Noi, April 2018.

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

A Trade Agreement was signed recently between the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Viet Nam 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.

Morocco and Viet Nam 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.

Towards a closer and more comprehensive relationship

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 Viet Nam, 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 Viet Nam to share their experience, expertise and know-how through the setting up of joint sectorial committees dedicated to this end.

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

Under the guidance of His Majesty the King, Morocco adopts 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, airport 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.

Viet Nam 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 Viet Nam to consolidate its presence in this promising continent and can work together in Africa, including through 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 Viet Nam as a platform for export to Africa which would allow Viet Nam to benefit from the legal arsenal set up between Morocco and many African countries.

Viet Nam, 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 the 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 non-interference 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.

National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan presides over the Admitting Ceremony of Norway and Morocco as the new Observer of the Inter-Parliamentary Council of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (AIPA), September 10, 2020 in Ha Noi.

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 Ha Noi during the closing ceremony of the 41st General Assembly of AIPA under the chairmanship of Viet Nam. 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 precious experience in conducting business and carrying out projects in diverse sectors.

Likewise, Viet Nam 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 a new height and become even closer and more comprehensive.