Interview: Dominic Jermey
What are the prospects for trade development?
DOMINIC JERMEY: Morocco is an important and interesting growth market, both in its own right and as a springboard to Africa for UK businesses. Our trade relationship is diverse and strong. Last year goods exported from the UK to Morocco were up by 28%, while imports from Morocco to the UK increased by 19%. Our bilateral trade in goods and services is worth some £1.8bn, so things are moving in the right direction. While UK companies have reported some constraints and challenges, such as bureaucracy or lengthy decision-making, Morocco is tackling these issues with vigour.
I see great potential for UK expertise to support projects in Morocco, such as the planned liquefied natural gas import terminal at Jorf Lasfar, the Zenata Eco City and the largest solar programme in the world. I am also struck by the grand vision and ambition of Office Chérifien des Phosphates as the guardian of the world’s largest phosphate resources and the new Moroccan public-private partnerships law, which will open up more projects across all sectors. These are all areas where UK expertise can support Morocco’s ambition.
The UK’s export credit agency UK Export Finance can potentially help Moroccan ministries and other project sponsors with long-term finance at competitive UK government interest rates when goods and services are purchased from the UK. We can definitely do more to raise awareness of the many great opportunities out there. I am encouraged by Morocco’s ambition, stability and the real willingness on both sides to do more business together. The competitive and innovative edge of the UK means that there are fantastic opportunities for even more UK businesses in this market.
How can the UK increase investment in Morocco?
JERMEY: At the Moroccan investment conference in London in the autumn of 2014, attended by UK and Moroccan ministers and business leaders, the shared message was clear: building more concrete business partnerships will drive growth and prosperity for both our countries. Morocco has been outperforming most of the region in terms of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). The 2014 UN Conference on Trade and Development “World Investment Report” shows it attracted $3.5bn in FDI flows. As the UK is the top destination for FDI in Europe and second in the world after the US, we are happy to share our experience with Morocco. Being open, innovative and business-friendly has been key to our success. Another advantage is being a leading financial centre, so it makes perfect sense that the London Stock Exchange was selected as a strategic partner for the Casablanca Stock Exchange.
Which sectors offer the greatest potential for trade?
JERMEY: The foundations of our trade and investment partnership are strong, going back hundreds of years to the days when our trade was in textiles, fine silverware and gunpowder tea. Today, Morocco hosts a diverse group of UK businesses and global companies, as well as a growing footprint of UK law firms and oil and gas exploration companies, indicating the breadth and diversity of our relationship. Education and training (including schools and English language centres), energy and environment, tourism, financial services, and safety and security are all ripe for more collaboration.
How can Morocco benefit from UKTI programmes?
JERMEY: As a high-growth market that could also benefit from more business-to-business (B2B) support, Morocco was included in the UKTI’s Overseas Business Network Initiative. The British Chamber of Commerce in Morocco is our programme partner and has been working to bring British and Moroccan small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) together for over 90 years. Its focus is on B2B matchmaking between UK and Moroccan SMEs, while the UKTI Morocco team will concentrate more on major projects. With our support, the chamber is launching a UK business centre in Casablanca, offering advice, support and flexible office space to UK companies doing business in or with Morocco.