1. Q: Your Excellency, how do you look at China-Morocco relations’ development since you arrived here two years ago?
A: China-Morocco relationship has a long history and can be dated back to as early as the 8th century AD. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1958 and the bilateral relations have developed smoothly since then. In recent years, China-Morocco relationship continues to develop steadily with fruitful results.
In the political field, high-level exchanges between the two sides are frequent and mutual trust and understanding has deepened continually. Last year, after the visit paid by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to Morocco in January, Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi-Fihri visited China and attended the Fourth Ministerial Conference of China-Arab Cooperation Forum in May. The two foreign ministers met four times within a year, exchanging their views thoroughly on issues of common concern. Last September, the Moroccan House Speaker Radi led a delegation to attend the Morocco Pavilion Day as well as China Pavilion Day during the World Expo 2010 Shanghai. This January, Chen Zhili, vice chairwoman of NPC Standing Committee, was invited to visit Morocco. All this shows that China-Morocco relationship is close, friendly and both sides attach great importance to the development of our bilateral relations.
In the economic and trade field, the cooperation between the two countries has been deepened. In October 2009 and this February, Moroccan Minister of Foreign Trade Abdul Latif Mazuz and Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming exchanged visits. According to Moroccan statistics, 2010 China-Morocco trade volume reached 26.8 BillionDirham and China has become Morocco’s third largest trading partner. The mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries in fields of project contracting, fisheries and communications have turned out splendid new achievements. Chinese enterprises have actively participated in the highway construction and other infrastructure development activities in Morocco and are highly recognized by their Moroccan counterparts.
Exchanges and cooperation between the two sides in the cultural field is getting increasingly closer and people-to-people exchanges continue to expand. Last year, a total of nearly ten thousand Moroccan citizens visited China for either business or tourism purposes. The number of Chinese tourists to Morocco is also increasing. This year the Moroccan Tourism office in China will be officially opened. In December 2009, the first Confucius Institute in Morocco was inaugurated at Mohammed V University in Rabat. The first group of students has begun learning to speak Chinese language and is able to perform some simple shows in it. Still, there are several Moroccan universities planning to offer Chinese language courses. China and Morocco have greatly promoted student exchange programs. At present 81 Moroccan students are studying in China under the support of Chinese government scholarship program and 10 Chinese students are studying at Mohammed V University. During the World Expo 2010 Shanghai, as the only self-built pavilion from an African country, the Morocco Pavilion showcased its rich, colorful and long history and cultural tradition, attracting over 5 million visitors.
In short, the past two years have witnessed satisfactory results in various fields through the development of friendly cooperative relations between the two sides. I am very confident about the future of China-Morocco relationship.
2. Q: What is your plan for the rest of your tenure? What key challenges you will be facing in future?
A: China and Morocco are both developing countries facing with the imperatives of addressing issues of economic development and improvement of livelihood ahead. The friendly political relations between the two countries and pragmatic bilateral cooperation will generate fruitful results. In the short term, we should focus on two tasks: Firstly, further strengthen bilateral economic and trade cooperation. China and Morocco’s economies are highly complementary and the potential in economic and trade cooperation is tremendous. We are willing to work with Morocco to deepen economic and trade cooperation to better benefit the two peoples. Over the past 30 years since China adopted reform and open policies, China has accumulated some experiences in economic development and constructing industrial parks, which we will be happy to share with our Moroccan friends. Secondly, further promote cultural exchanges between the two countries and enhance mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples. This is conducive to the sustainable development of China-Morocco relationship. In my opinion, the biggest obstacle to China-Morocco cooperation is the lack of mutual understanding. As Ambassador to Morocco, I will do my utmost as a "go-between" to introduce our countries to each other, boost mutual understanding and pave the way for bilateral cooperation.
3. Q: China has become Morocco’s third largest trading partner. In what other areas do you think we should enhance cooperation?
A: Yes, China has become Morocco’s third largest trading partner. In recent years, the fast growth of China-Morocco trade is quite impressive. However it should be noticed that China-Morocco trade only accounts for 6% in Morocco's total external trade. There is a great potential for expanding trade between the two sides. Now both countries are making efforts on this front. Not long ago, during the visit of Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming, Sinochem signed a 4-year contract with Morocco’s OCP Group to purchase 2 million tons of phosphate fertilizer. Later last year, the first batch of 20 tons of Moroccan citrus entered the Chinese market and the annual export volume is expected to reach 40,000 to 50,000 tons in 5 years. The two sides are also making active preparations for Moroccan companies to establish their presence in African Commodities Exhibition Center at Yiwu, China, aiming at introducing more Morocco goods and promoting exports to China.
I would also like to point out that China Morocco have huge potentials in terms of mutually beneficial cooperation between enterprises from the two sides, particularly in the fields of agriculture, fishery, infrastructure construction, communications, new energy and tourism. The Moroccan government has launched ambitious plans over the past few years. Given China’s extensive experiences and numerous leading companies in the above-mentioned areas, the prospect of our cooperation will be very fruitful.
4. Q: To do a better job, what recommendations would you give to those potential Moroccan partners?
A: First of all, I hope the friends in Morocco’s business sector can be more aggressive in exporting to China and selling more Morocco products on the Chinese market. Morocco boasts quality glycerin, olive oil, red wine, citrus and other products, which are yet unknown to the Chinese consumers. You know, China is a big market with a 1.3 billion population. Secondly, I hope Morocco will step up self-promotion, introducing its investment environment and policies to a greater number of Chinese enterprises to attract more Chinese investment to Morocco. In January, Morocco Investment Development Agency held Sino-Morocco Investment Forum in China, which is indeed a good start. In addition, I hope that Morocco can provide greater convenience to the Chinese enterprises and business people in the area of visa and residence permit issuance.
5. Q: It is known that China-Morocco cooperation in the political and economic field has a long history, then how is it in the cultural field?
A: China and Morocco have signed cultural cooperation protocol. We have achieved fruitful results in cultural cooperation for a long time. Cultural communities from the two sides exchanged visits frequently. I remember in November 2009, the performance by Henan Art Group was popularly received by the Moroccan audiences. Two Moroccan artistic performing groups, Gnawa and Andalous, were invited to visit and perform at Arab Arts Festival in China in June 2010 and their performances at both the Festival and Shanghai World Expo won great acclaims. This year, Morocco will organize a Film Week in China. Moroccan Minister of Culture Immich led a delegation to attend High-level Roundtable on Arab Culture last year when the Chinese Minister of Culture invited him to visit China within the bilateral exchange framework. As there are a lot of culture and art festivals held in Morocco, we will actively recommend and encourage Chinese artists groups to participate.
6. Q: Since you arrived in Morocco as Ambassador what has impressed you greatly?
A: Since I arrived here, I was surprised to find the Chinese and Moroccan peoples have many things in common or of similarity such as in cultural traditions, way of thinking, interpersonal relations, eating habits, clothing, architecture, music and etc. The Moroccan people are as hospitable as the Chinese people and I don’t feel a stranger here. I have been invited to the homes of Moroccan friends. For dinner, the plates used to carry “Pastilla" (Moroccan pie) are Chinese-style porcelain, the tea tray is called "Sine"(in Arabic, meaning "China"), and we drink Chinese tea, I feel I am like back home. Morocco is the largest importer of Chinese tea, which has become a daily necessity for the Moroccan people. These similarities show the long-established China-Morocco relationship and deep friendship between the two peoples. It makes the communication, interaction, exchange and understanding between us much easier. It also helps me greatly working in Morocco. I feel so honored and happy to be able to come to Morocco to be the ambassador. I will make my utmost efforts to deepen the friendly cooperation between China and Morocco and promote the traditional friendship between our two peoples.