Morocco and UK to conduct joint military exercises in October

In addition, Rabat and London consolidate their trade cooperation through a new maritime route that will connect the two countries in September
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The British ambassador in Rabat, Simon Martin, told Le360 that Morocco and the United Kingdom will carry out joint military exercises next October. These exercises will involve the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Recently, Morocco carried out military operations by land, sea and air with the United States as part of the African Lion project. In addition, other countries such as France, Italy and Canada participated in the manoeuvres.

This plan is a major step in the defence cooperation between Rabat and London, although Martin was also keen to emphasise commercial cooperation. "The strong trade relations that already exist between the two countries in the fields of agriculture, tourism, automobiles, aeronautics, textiles and financial services," said the British ambassador.

"We already have a very important trade for the UK; the main products exported are refined oil, gas, cars, aircraft parts, and so on. In the other direction, most of Morocco's exports to the UK are vegetables and fresh fruit," he added. However, Moroccan exports to the UK are still lower compared to other EU countries. In 2020, British importers spent £180 million on fresh produce from Morocco, while imports with Spain amounted to almost £1.8 billion. However, with the new association agreement signed after Brexit, London will be able to maintain trade ties with Morocco without being bound by the agreements drawn up by Brussels.

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PHOTO/AP - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London on 20 January 2020.

"We have very complementary economies and with this agreement we have built a structure to identify sectors where we can change the rules, the terms of our economic relationship to increase opportunities for Moroccan investors in the UK and vice versa," Martin explained.

The diplomat highlighted renewable energy as a sector with great potential for investment. "Morocco is a world leader in renewable energy, there are more and more investment opportunities in this area. There is a proposal, we are crossing our fingers that it will be successful, for a very, very important investment to generate electricity from renewable energy in Morocco and export it to the UK," the ambassador revealed. Within sustainable energy, Martin spoke of green hydrogen and expressed his desire for "Morocco to become a centre for the development of this technology".

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PHOTO/REUTERS - Prince Henry of the United Kingdom meets with Saad Eddine El Othmani, Prime Minister of Morocco, during the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London, Britain, 20 January 2020.
New route Tangier Med-Poole

Simon Martin also announced a new shipping line that will directly connect the port of Tangier with Poole, in the south of England, from September. This route will be the first direct route between the UK and Morocco and will aim to promote trade between the two countries. For the moment, the line is reserved for carrying containers, although Martin has not ruled out passenger transport at a later date. "I think there will be a big demand for passenger services, not just cargo," he says.

The new route will operate once a week and will be operated by United Seaways. In addition, the ambassador has assured that the route "will be faster and cheaper". Traffic between the ports is expected to exceed half a million containers a year.

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PHOTO/REUTERS - General view of the Tangier-Med container port at Ksar Sghir, near the coastal city of Tangier, Morocco.
London, on the sidelines of the Sahara conflict

Not surprisingly, one of the questions put to the British ambassador related to the issue of Western Sahara and the British position. "We, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, are not a direct party, but we have a responsibility and a commitment to find a solution within the United Nations," Martin replied. "We are always positive and constructive and this will continue," he added.