Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, president of the Mouvement des entreprises de France (Medef), will not be going to Morocco. While he was to be received on Monday June 26 by his counterparts from the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM), the boss of French bosses was invited to postpone his visit. In question, according to a source at the CGEM: bad timing “due to the current context of Morocco-France relations, which does not lend itself to this visit”.
The invitation had not been launched by the CGEM, assures a source close to the file in Morocco, specifying that it was Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux who had expressed his desire to come before the end of his mandate, on July 6. “There are certainly political contexts, but we are business leaders, we do not do politicssaid Fabrice Le Saché, spokesman for Medef, to the Moroccan media The360. What interests us, like our Moroccan counterparts, are our projects. You have to be able to distinguish things well. The political coloring can, of course, influence, especially for public contracts. But private companies, among themselves, are looking for the best technologies, the best investors. »
Economic ties between the two countries are historically strong. In 2022, France was the leading foreign investor in Morocco, ahead of the United States and the United Arab Emirates. Regarding the tourist component, it is the first breeding ground of the kingdom, with more than 1 million French people coming to spend holidays there in the first quarter of 2023. In terms of foreign direct investment (FDI), France still retains the first place. On the other hand, Paris has fallen to second place among the country’s trading partners, behind Spain since 2017.
For its part, Morocco “remains the first country in Africa in terms of net FDI, the first in terms of jobs created and the second in number of projects implemented (12) in France in 2022”, said the French embassy in Morocco in a press release published in May. “The economic ties between Rabat and Paris have always been obvious, confirms the Moroccan economist Najib Akesbi. Even if today there is political interference. »
The sensitive issue of Western Sahara
The kingdom has no longer had an ambassador in Paris since January 19, the day the European Parliament voted on a non-binding text denouncing the fate reserved for imprisoned Moroccan journalists and affirming the ” concern “ MEPs about Morocco’s alleged involvement in a corruption scandal. In Rabat, we denounce a campaign of attacks and harassment, orchestrated in particular by the European deputy Stéphane Séjourné, secretary general of Renaissance, the party of President Emmanuel Macron.
Another sensitive issue: that of the disputed territory of Western Sahara. During the Speech from the Throne in August 2022, Mohammed VI set a hard line. The Sahara is today “ the prism through which Morocco considers its international environment”, explained the sovereign. The kingdom henceforth let France know that it expects a strong position, like Washington, which has recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the region. Moreover, the attempts at rapprochement between France and Algeria, support of the Sahrawi separatists, are very badly perceived by Morocco.
It is this context that the CGEM invokes to justify the cancellation of the visit of Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux. “Who can imagine for a second that the decision of the CGEM is autonomous? No one can believe this, point Najib Akesbi. It is a political wake-up call to power at the CGEM. » For the economist, French and Moroccan economic interests are intertwined and revolve around the elites of the two countries: “In France, there are lobbies that monitor and act to maintain these relations. We have to believe that for the moment, they cannot sufficiently influence the Elysée. In Morocco, the game is less subtle. Economics and politics are one. The interests of Moroccan elites are too important to take the risk of losing them. Today, it is the mechanisms of influence of the elites that are faltering. »
“The economy and the big markets are political negotiation cards used by both Morocco and France”, continues Najib Akesbi. For example, for the extension of the high-speed train network (TGV) with the line linking Marrakech to Agadir, French groups have already expressed a desire to support the National Railways Office (ONCF). The SNCF group wishes to participate in the design of the high-speed line and the multinational Alstom would like to equip the project with locomotives and wagons, as it had done for the first section of TGV linking Casablanca to Tangier. But the Moroccan authorities are opening the door to other countries such as China or Spain.
The breakthrough of Germany and Russia
The local press regularly relays the idea that France’s position in Morocco is no longer certain and that calls for tenders should allow the kingdom to study all its possibilities. “Obviously, the result of these calls for tenders is only the materialization of the rapprochements between States”underlines Najib Akesbi.
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Another market coveted by major French groups is that of green hydrogen. But in 2020, the kingdom turned to Germany. The two states have signed a joint declaration of intent on the development of this energy in Morocco. The German development bank KfW will finance the construction of a green hydrogen production plant for 300 million euros.
Finally, with regard to civil nuclear power and to achieve Morocco’s objective of reaching 52% renewable energies by 2030, a bilateral agreement with Moscow is under discussion. The text provides for the creation, among other things, of research and power reactors, elementary particle accelerators and a radioactive waste management system.
But for Najib Akesbi, “nothing is decided” : “If these contracts were awarded quickly to countries other than France, that would be a strong sign, but for the moment, nothing is happening. Such a radical change of course would call too many fundamentals into question. »
As for the current president of Medef, “He will have the opportunity to come to Morocco in 2024”, says a source at the CGEM, who ensures that the links between Moroccan and French employers remain strong. The meeting of French-speaking entrepreneurs organized by the Alliance of French-speaking employers (APF), chaired by Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, will take place on Moroccan soil next year.