World

Morocco seeks to boost
business ties with RI:
Envoy

Every ambassador has a mission to accomplish when they are posted abroad. Similarly, Morocco's new ambassador, Mohamed Majdi, also has an important mission in Indonesia.

"My main mission in Indonesia is simple and complicated at the same time," Ambassador Majdi, who submitted his credentials to President Susuilo Bambang Yudhoyono on April 21, 2009, told The Jakarta Post in a recent interview at his office in Jakarta.

How can a mission be simple and complicated at the same time?

"We have excellent relations, politically and diplomatically, with Indonesia. My main mission is to further strengthen these excellent ties, especially in the economic field," said Majdi.

Morocco, a North African country, and Indonesia have already taken several measures to boost economic ties.

"We have already signed all the necessary agreements such as agreements on the avoidance of double taxation and the protection of investment and economic cooperation. Last year we held the first ever joint commission meeting, which was attended by the Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, in Rabat. Our Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi visited Jakarta in March 2009," Majdi said.

"We have all the necessary regulations and legal frameworks. It's true our trade has been increasing, but the value of that trade is very low. It doesn't reflect the economic potential of both countries," Majdi said.

Surprisingly, bilateral trade has been growing rapidly since 2003. During the last five years, trade between Morocco and Indonesia more than tripled. In 2008, the two-way trade surged to US$109.31 million, a 47 percent increase, up from $74.19 million in 2007. The trade value stood at just $35.98 million in 2003.

It seems the current global crisis can't even slow the growth of trade between the two countries. In the first four months of this year, bilateral trade jumped to $30.27 million, a 27 percent increase from $23.80 million during the same period in 2007.

Indonesia mainly exports coffee, rubber, glassware, palm oil, spices, tea, furniture and garments to Morocco, while importing phosphate, fertilizers, chemicals, iron and steel rods from Rabat.

When asked about the reasons for the low level of trade, Majdi said the geographical distance, lack of direct air link between Jakarta and Rabat and a lack of awareness about each other's economic potential were some of the reasons.

"That's why my mission is complicated. We have to raise the awareness about Morocco in Indonesia and vice versa," Majdi said.

In relation to business opportunities in Morocco, Majdi said his country was in an advantageous position to do business.

"We have free trade agreements with the US, the European Union, Turkey and several Arab countries. Morocco is a gateway to many countries in Europe and the Middle East. Indonesian businesspeople can come to Morocco and export their goods to the US and Europe at much lower tariffs," Majdi said.

In the cultural field, Morocco provided 15 scholarships to Indonesian students to study in Morocco. Morocco is also seeking to enhance people-to-people contacts.

Jakarta and Casablanca, Morocco's largest city, signed a sister city agreement on Sept. 21, 1990. In order to promote friendship between the peoples of both countries, a main street was named after Casablanca, while Rabat has its Sukarno Avenue.

Though he has been here for five months only, Majdi has developed a special affection for Indonesia.

"I like Indonesian people very much because they are kind and very friendly. I already have a lot of friends here," said Majdi.

Majdi, a proud father of two children, has no interest in playing golf, but loves to read books and go walking in his free time.

He has a bachelor's degree in public law and speaks fluent Arabic, French and English. Now he wants to add one more language to this list.

"Ever since my arrival, I have been learning the Indonesian language. Learning the local language will make my job much easier. I will be in a better position to boost business ties between the two countries," Majdi said.

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