Morocco is set to appoint an honorary consul in Georgia as it seeks to broaden its economic and trade connections across the U.S., the nation’s ambassador told Global Atlanta.
Throughout the country, Morocco already has honorary consuls covering 11 states, who as private citizens are picked to officially represent a nation’s interest in their communities. There isn’t one so far in Georgia, which boasts diplomatic offices or binational chambers of commerce from more than 70 other nations.
“We will have one,” Ambassador Rachad Bouhlal told Global Atlanta in an interview after Coca-Cola Co. hosted the annual U.S.-Morocco Investment Forum at its Atlanta headquarters.
Morocco is targeting states like Georgia, which have complementary industrial strengths and are home to large, well-known companies that can offer their imprimatur to Morocco’s investment climate. Coke certainly fits the bill, the ambassador said.
“When a company like Coca-Cola opens its headquarters to a country to do a joint event promoting the country, it means that they are doing good business there. It’s good also for our image. It’s a signal to other companies,” Mr. Bouhlal said.
Next year, the embassy is planning to hold its investment forum in the state of Washington, the traditional manufacturing stronghold of (now Chicago-based) Boeing Co., which operates a factory in the country.
“You cannot promote Morocco in the investment part only in Washington (D.C.) and New York. You need to go to each state, because each state has its own vision, its own roadmap,” said Mahmoune Bouhdoud, minster for small and medium businesses in the Ministry of Trade, Investment and Digital Economy, who also visited Atlanta with the high-level Moroccan delegation.
The investment forum featured panels on doing business in Morocco and drew attendees including the U.S. ambassador to the country, Dwight Bush. Leaders of the Casablanca Stock Exchange, Casablanca Finance City, CitiBank Maghreb and Attijariwafa Bank also were among the speakers.
While Morocco was pitching itself as an investment destination, it also was seeking partnerships to help link its smaller companies to the global economy. Over the past decade, the country has made progress in wooing financial services firms and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment from auto suppliers like France’s Renault and aerospace giants like Boeing and Bombardier.
Using their collective power within these industry “ecosystems,” small companies can grow and create jobs, driving the economy forward, said Mr. Bouhdoud, whose job is to make sure that the focus on small and medium-sized enterprises is “transversal” throughout all government initiatives.
“When you think of competitiveness, it’s the right vision,” he said.
Georgia initially appeared on Morocco’s radar because of its strong agricultural industry, Ambassador Bouhlal said. The two sides will share knowledge on their respective food-safety certification processes as a result of this week’s forum.
The ambassador found a willing ally in Rep. Hank Johnson of Stone Mountain, who traveled to Morocco in 2014 with a Congressional Black Caucus delegation focused on exploring economic, technical and cultural cooperation with the country, according to spokesman Andy Phelan.
“Congressman Johnson is impressed that Morocco has shown sustained, incremental progress toward democracy. He feels privileged to continue the dialogue and close relationship with Morocco as an important trading partner to the U.S. — and more specifically Georgia, which is the 7th biggest U.S. exporter to Morocco, averaging over $88 million in exports annually since 2010,” Mr. Phelan wrote in an email.
During the trip, the ambassador also said he spoke with Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr about potentially leading trade delegation to the North African nation.