Morocco, Indonesia Elevate Their Friendly Ties To A Strategic Partnership – OpEd

Morocco and Indonesia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance their friendly relations to a strategic partnership on Dec. 22 in Rabat.

“I am so glad that today we can elevate our bilateral relations to be a strategic partnership. But we must work harder to fill this new partnership with concrete cooperation that brings benefits to our people,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said in a press statement, which was posted on the website of Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

“Indonesia is a reliable partner for Morocco. Both of us uphold consistently the principle of respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries.” 

The signing of the MoU followed talks between Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation, and Moroccan Expatriates, Nasser Bourita, and Retno. Retno visited Rabat on Dec. 22 to strengthen bilateral relations between Morocco and Indonesia.

This MoU aims to diversify and expand cooperation in areas like bilateral security, parliamentary and regional cooperation as well as cooperation within international organizations.

“We signed this memorandum of understanding on strategic partnership in accordance with the High Guidelines of HM King Mohammed VI and the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Joko Widodo,” Bourita said at a joint press briefing with his Indonesian peer.

He added that this strategy “shall not be a simple slogan, but a reality on the ground”.

Establishing a strategic partnership is “an ambition that we shall achieve by giving substance to what has been signed”, the MAP news agency reported, quoting Bourita as saying.

Affirming that Indonesia is a “reliable partner of Morocco”, Bourita recalled that the two countries “defend the principle of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States”.

During her visit,  Retno discussed with her Moroccan counterpart various issues.

First, both ministers discussed collaboration between both countries’ health institutions and companies to foster the exchange of knowledge regarding vaccine manufacturing as well as research and joint production, including between Pasteur du Maroc Institute and Biofarma Indonesia.

“I welcome the visit of Pasteur du Maroc Institute to Indonesia and do hope that discussions on cooperation would continue,” Retno said in her press release.

On the issue of trade, Indonesia welcomed bilateral trade between the two countries, which reached more than $308.5 million last year. This is the highest value in the last five years. The current bilateral trade was a huge increase from $35.99 million in 2003.

Indonesia exported goods worth $195.4 million to Morocco, while Morocco exported goods worth $114.4 million to Indonesia in 2022. Indonesia mainly exports palm oil, coffee, tea, spices, rubber, paper, leather products, furniture, foods, beverages, and aquatic products to Morocco, while importing from Morocco natural calcium phosphate, garments, iron and steel, chemicals, and mineral or chemical fertilizers.

“To further boost bilateral trade, Indonesia looks forward to receiving a positive response from Morocco on the proposal for a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA),” Retno said.

To boost economic relations, both countries established the Joint Commission in 2013.

On the supply of potassium and phosphate, there is an ongoing B-to-B cooperation between PT. Pupuk Indonesia and OCP Group Morocco. 

“I do hope that this cooperation can progress to investment cooperation and the joint production of fertilizers,” Retno said.

On social cooperation, Indonesia welcomed the signing of the Letter of Intent between Indonesia’s Prakerja Management Office and the Moroccan National Agency Against Illiteracy last September to explore technical cooperation for job seekers, both in Indonesia and Morocco, to meet industry requirements.

During Indonesia’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year, Morocco became ASEAN’s sectoral dialogue partner.

“I warmly welcome Morocco as the ASEAN sectoral dialogue partner. We will be able to intensify our cooperation between ASEAN and Morocco,” Retno said.

With its population of 38.01 million and a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$146.96 billion, the Kingdom of Morocco is situated in Northern Africa. 

With its population of 278.62 million, the Republic of Indonesia is home to the world’s biggest Muslim population. With a GDP of $1.41 trillion, the Indonesian economy is the largest in Southeast Asia. It is also a member of the G20. 

Both Morocco and Indonesia are Muslim-majority democratic countries. Both are members of the United Nations, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). The countries established diplomatic ties on April 19, 1960, and relations have been growing rapidly during the last 63 years.

In 1960, Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, visited Morocco. In 2009, Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi visited Indonesia to strengthen bilateral ties.

Moroccan Ambassador to Indonesia Ouadia Benabdellah has expressed hope that the bilateral relationship between Morocco and Indonesia will continue to improve.

“I am optimistic about the improvement in bilateral relations that we have achieved in the last few years,” Antara news agency reported, quoting Ouadia as saying recently in Jakarta. 

“It is hoped that bilateral relations between Indonesia and Morocco will continue to move forward to achieve a promising partnership, especially in the economic, industrial, and food security sectors”.

He said that there are still many opportunities that need to be explored further in the development of bilateral relations between the two countries.

“Therefore, I urge both nations to continue working together and provide opportunities for Indonesian and Moroccan entrepreneurs to develop more promising partnerships,” Ouadia said. 

The local governments of the two countries also enjoy close relations. In 1990, Jakarta and Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city, signed a sister city agreement. To demonstrate the strength of their relationship, a famous shopping avenue in Jakarta was named Jalan Casablanca. Meanwhile, in Rabat, an avenue was named after Sukarno to commemorate his 1960 visit as a token of friendship. In 2014, a province in West Sumatra inked a sister province agreement with the Fes-Boulemane region.

This strategic partnership is likely to strengthen bilateral relations for greater cooperation between Morocco and Indonesia.