Jul. 31, 2012
Morocco wants its relations with India to expand beyond trade and supply of phosphates, a key ingredient for fertilizers of which it holds two-thirds of global reserves, to investment in services and manufacturing with a slew of tax sops.
"India is our top trading partner in Asia and the third largest globally. We have set an excellent example of South-South cooperation. These ties now must expand. There is a great scope for that as well," said Moroccan ambassador to India Larbi Reffouh.
"There are already two major joint ventures between our two sides in the broad area of fertilizers. But scope exists in virtually every field -- from automotives and textiles to agro-processing and IT," Reffouh said.
Morocco, which shared bilateral trade worth USD 1.6 billion with India last year, accounts for some 60 percent of the country's phosphatic needs, a mineral primarily used in the manufacture of di-ammonium phosphate, an important plant nutrient.
"In many ways, Morocco is contributing to India's food security."
India's Aditya Birla Group and the Tatas have an equal joint venture with a state-run company of Morocco at Jorf Lasfar, some 150 km from Casablanca, to produce 430,000 tonnes of phosphoric acid, nearly all of which is exported to India.
This apart, Morocco has also invested in Paradeep Phosphates for a unit in Orissa with a capacity of over 2 million tonnes per annum of phosphatic fertilisers. The Zuari Group and the Indian government also hold stakes in the company.
According to the ambassador, Morocco, which has 70 pristine tourist destinations, also seeks investments from India in the hospitality sector, particularly for construction and maintenance of hotels.
He said help was at hand even for acquisition of land.
The Tata group already runs a luxury hotel in Marrakech, and hopes to open another in Casablanca by the end of this year.
The ambassador explained that among the incentives given to foreign investors in his country include freehold land ownership and financial support in acquisition of land for factories, modern infrastructure and liberal taxation and other norms.
Under Moroccan law, local and international investors are treated equally. Whatever incentives are available for national investors are also available for overseas investors.
Morocco is the largest recipient of foreign investment in North Africa. It received USD 18 billion such capital between 2000 and 2009, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The majority of it is in fertilizer and minerals.
India and Morocco have set up a joint commission to facilitate two-way investments and trade. "The next meeting of the joint commission will be held sometime in the first quarter of 2013," the ambassador said.
Reffouh said Morocco and India share a common vision in a host of both regional and multilateral forums, notably in the UN where the two nations are currently non-permanent members of the Security Council.
"We appreciate that India was among the very first countries to recognise Moroccan independence. It was also the first to establish diplomatic ties and open an embassy in our country," he said.
"Our ties, in fact, date back to the 14th century when our explorer Ibn Butata travelled to India."