News and Information

Western Sahara Sours SA-Morocco Relations
September 20, 2004

Business Day (Johannesburg)

September 20, 2004
Posted to the web September 20, 2004

Carli Lourens

Trade between SA and Morocco, which is currently at a low, is unlikely to be disrupted after political relations between SA and the north African country soured.

But the political impasse could thwart vast future trade potential between the northern and southern ends of Africa, a trade commentator said on Friday.

The Moroccan government recalled its ambassador to SA last week after government said it recognised the independence of the annexed Moroccan territory of Western Sahara.

But the South African ambassador to Morocco, Mthuthuzeli Mphele, said on Friday he did not believe SA's move would affect trade between the two countries.

He also saw no reason why government should recall him to SA. He had not received any communication from the South African government to this effect.

A trade commentator who declined to be identified, however criticised SA's move. "It highlights SA's double standards in foreign policy, which are becoming increasingly problematic."

The commentator said SA had taken a hardline stance to the sensitive Western Sahara issue with Morocco, while practising quiet diplomacy with Zimbabwe.

The commentator said there was vast potential for enhanced trade between SA and Morocco.

SA and Morocco had also been singled out by the US as free trade partners on the continent.

Trade between SA and Morocco amounts to about R1-billion a year, and is heavily skewed in SA's favour. South African exports to Morocco are worth 40 times as much as Moroccan exports to SA.

Government has said its decision to back Western Sahara's independence was in line with the objectives of the African Union and United Nations charters.


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