Relations between Spain and Morocco from a commercial and economic point of view. In such a way that it has often been the “primus inter pares” when it comes to analyzing the path shared by the two countries. The current state and future of this paradigm, with the role played by the autonomous community of Andalusia in the equation, was debated by two panels of experts during the conference “Andalusia, Spain-Morocco Euro-Mediterranean link”organized today at the Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation by the magazine Atalayar.
In collaboration with the Junta of Andalusia, the General Secretariat for Foreign Action, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the International Press Club, the conference put the debate on the table through Mohamed Benchaib, CEO of Bank of Africa Europe; Miguel Guardiola Villamarín, Director of International Relations of the Confederation of Andalusian Entrepreneurs; Aziz El Hammouti, corporate director of Robles Sphère and Jerónimo Páez, lawyer and expert in international relations.
As Benchaib recalledMorocco is Spain’s gateway to the African market. The kingdom alone accounts for 50% of Spanish exports to the African continent, according to ICEX data. Andalusia plays an important role in this trade balance, since it represents 17% of these exports.
Benchaib welcomed this level of trade, but regretted that Spanish investments were not keeping pace with commercial traffic. Spanish investments in the neighboring country take fifth place in the ranking, far behind the United States, France, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. Benchaib said the new private investment law should encourage Spanish investment in Morocco to take off immediately. “We want businesses to open in Morocco, but not close in Spain. We want to collocate, not relocate“said the senior official of the Moroccan banking institution present throughout the African continent.
Benchaib highlighted the role played by his bank in supporting Spanish companies on the path to investment and setting up in Morocco. The European subsidiary of Bank of Africa is a 100% Spanish entity that motivates and encourages foreign trade. “Before 1994, when we arrived in Spain, there was no entity to accompany them and confirm their operations, to give them added value and professionalism. .. When you make this type of investment , you have to have security,” Benchaib said. “The first thing we want when we support a company in its Moroccan investment is for it to succeed”.
Benchaib’s speech was followed by that of Miguel Guardiola Villamarín, director of relations for the largest federation of entrepreneurs in Andalusia, Ceuta and Melilla. The organization, which brings together business representatives from the eight Andalusian provinces, has its eyes fixed on its southern neighbour. “In terms of attracting foreign companies, Morocco has a long-term policy, and that always gives good results”, Guardiola said. “And that allowed them to jump from 130th place in Doing Business magazine to 50th place.”
The representative of the Andalusian business community evaluated very positively the current business climate in Morocco and especially the giant strides that the country has made in recent decades to adapt to foreign entrepreneurs. Andalusia also highlights its strengths. Guardiola recalled that the first institutional trip abroad that Andalusian President Moreno Bonilla carried out is in Moroccoresulting in a business forum.
For Aziz El Mammouchi, Business Director at Robles Sphere, the best thing that can happen between Spain, Andalusia and Morocco is the creation of a regional value chain. “The sudden reduction in supply from Asia is an eye-opener for us to rethink how we work. This is why we are moving away from the global value chain towards the regional chain.” For this view, El Hammouchi attaches particular importance to SMEs, small and medium-sized enterprises, which it encourages to embark on internationalization.
The round table was closed by the expert in international relations Jerónimo Páez, who, thanks to his great knowledge of the common history of Andalusia and Morocco, was able to give good advice for the future. “Andalusia needs an association agreement with northern Morocco, just like Galicia has an agreement with Porto,” insisted Páez. “We have to move forward, without counting on Madrid”.
In the second part of the round table, more focused on business opportunities and business creation, Pablo Lería Couderc, head of the African and Middle Eastern market development department of the Andalusian Agency for External Promotion (Extenda), one of the main players in trade with Morocco, took the floor. Lería reviewed the main sectors of interest for which Andalusia is a priority in Morocco: agriculture, construction, renewable energies, water treatment and products related to the automotive industry.
José Ignacio García Muniozguren, managing partner of the Garrigues office in Casablanca, also spoke during the conference, to share his experienced vision of the Moroccan legal framework in relation to companies wishing to establish themselves in Morocco. García Muniozguren assured that, although the Moroccan tax system is very similar to the Spanish system, “the devil is in the details”so a correct knowledge of Moroccan laws is imperative for the Spanish investor.
His speech was followed by that of Nourdine Mouati, a consultant specializing in cooperation between Spain and Morocco, who recalled that if trade between the two countries have exceeded those between Morocco and France, it is thanks to political will. “Companies are often afraid to invest in Morocco from a reputational point of view, which is why we must make it known that there is already a value chain between the two countries which is very beneficial for society”.
The roundtable ended with the assessment by some of the speakers of the latest major engineering project to link Andalusia to northern Morocco by means of a tunnel similar to the Channel Tunnel. The speakers agreed that today engineering makes it possible to carry out the macro-project and that all that is missing is the political will and funding for the work and the plans to begin.
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Miguel Guardiola: “Morocco is the country of the Spanish and Andalusian environment that has undergone the most changes”
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