Morocco is targeting increased trade and investment links with the GCC as the euro-zone crisis dents its exports to Europe, its main trading partner.
Trade officials and business leaders from the country visited Dubai yesterday to cooperate on using Dubai and Morocco as export gateways to the Middle East and Africa respectively.
"We are targeting partners for the distribution of products as well as investor partners," said Abdellatif Mazouz, Morocco's minister of foreign trade. "We want to reinforce our presence in existing markets like Europe but also diversify into new markets."
Situated just 15km across the Mediterranean Sea from Spain, Morocco can account for about 60 per cent of its trade through the EU, but Europe's sovereign debt crisis is clouding the outlook. Its trade with the EU has risen 12 per cent so far this year, but the rate of increase has slowed from 31 per cent last year.
Morocco's trade with the Gulf is much less. It exported US$220 million (Dh808.1m) of goods to the UAE last year, with $123m of non-oil goods headed the other way. European demand for about 25 million pairs of shoes that Moroccan leather manufacturers usually export to the continent every year is weakening.
The $4m leather goods export market will expand by about 5 per cent this year, up on last year but a long way short of the double-digit growth the industry recorded before the global financial crisis, said Mohamed Amaiz, the president of the Moroccan Federation of Leather Industries.
Federation officials are part of the Moroccan trade delegation visiting the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait to secure new buyers in the Gulf.
In a bid to help safeguard their economies from the turmoil that has affected other Arab countries, Morocco and Jordan made requests in May to join the GCC.
Up to a quarter of Moroccan foreign direct investment is from the GCC, with a large portion of that flowing into the property market before the global recession.
The Casablanca Stock Exchange has also been hurt by the fallout from European troubles. It hopes to convince GCC institutional investors such as government pension funds to add the exchange to their investment portfolio.
"Twenty-seven per cent of investors in the Casablanca Stock Exchange are European. But that level of investment has dropped by 10 per cent this year compared to last," said Aomar Yidar, the chairman of the exchange.