Israel hopes to increase trade with Morocco to $500m, says economy minister in Rabat

Orna Barbivai signs new bilateral agreement to deepen economic ties, expand trade, and encourage investments

Israeli Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai with Moroccan Trade Minister Ryad Mezzour in Rabat, Morocco, on February 21, 2022. (Ministry of Economy and Industry)
Israeli Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai with Moroccan Trade Minister Ryad Mezzour in Rabat, Morocco, on February 21, 2022. (Ministry of Economy and Industry)

RABAT, Morocco — Israel and Morocco signed a new bilateral agreement on Monday aimed at deepening economic ties, expanding trade, and developing joint business committees to drive the deal forward, Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry said.

Economy Minister Orna Barbivai, who arrived in Morocco on Sunday for a visit, said the accord “is intended to bring about economic growth and prosperity for Israel and Morocco,” as Israel hopes to “increase bilateral trade between the two countries from $131 million [last year] to $500 million in the next five years.”

The trade agreement was the latest sign of expanding cooperation after the countries normalized relations in 2020. It comes three months after Israel and Morocco signed a defense deal to deepen security ties, more freely share intelligence, and hold joint exercises.

Morocco was one of four Arab countries — along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan — to move towards normalizing ties with Israel last year under the US-brokered Abraham Accords.

At a joint press briefing Monday, Moroccan Minister of Industry and Trade Ryad Mezzour said the “groundbreaking meeting” with the Israeli delegation headed by Barbivai “created the opportunity for us to identify regions and channels for bilateral industrial and commercial cooperation and partnership,” according to a ministry statement.

“After more than a year of renewed diplomatic ties, Morocco and Israel laid the foundations for an innovative, multi-dimensional partnership,” he added. “This is a new day where we embark on an intense, fruitful, and beneficial partnership for both parties.”

Israeli Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai and Moroccan Industry and Trade Minister Ryad Mezzour sign a new trade cooperation deal in Rabat, Morocco, on February 21, 2022. (Ministry of Economy and Industry)

The agreement will facilitate trade and investments in industries such as aerospace, tourism, tech research and development, automotive, agriculture, food, and pharmaceuticals, the ministers indicated in the media briefing.

During her four-day trip, on which she is accompanied by her Moroccan-born husband, Barbivai was scheduled to visit Rabat, economic capital Casablanca and tourist hub Marrakesh, to tour Israeli textile and agricultural companies and to meet ministers and business representatives.

“Morocco has great importance for Israel diplomatically, economically and culturally,” she said before the visit.

In November 2021, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz made an unprecedented visit to Morocco, signing a security pact that angered Morocco’s neighbor and rival Algeria, and the Palestinians.

Benny Gantz, center, is welcomed by Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, in Rabat, Morocco, on Wednesday, November 24, 2021. (AP/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

After his visit, Israeli and Moroccan media reported Rabat’s purchase of Israeli defense technology.

Israel and Morocco had initially established relations in the 1990s, but Rabat broke them off at the start of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) in 2000.

Cooperation has expanded swiftly since ties were re-established as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords in late 2020.

National carrier Royal Air Maroc is expected to start direct flights between Casablanca and Tel Aviv on March 13.

Morocco reopened its borders earlier this month after shutting them in November due to the coronavirus, and is hoping for a large influx of Israeli tourists.

Earlier this month, Israel signed a defense deal with Bahrain.

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