The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was successfully held in Beijing between 19th and 20th of July.
Held at the time when the world is plagued by military conflicts and turbulence, the forum this year, themed as cooperation and development, was thus of particular significance tostates leaders from 50 countries coming together. Before the closing ceremony on July 20th, Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani, Foreign Minister of Morocco, received our exclusive interview on many issues concerning China-Africa win-win cooperation model, western speculation on China's aid to Africa, trade imbalance between China and Africa and Morocco's stand on Syria.
Huanqiu.com: Is this your first time to come to China? What impressed you most during your stay here?
Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani: Yes, this is my first trip to China. China is a country boasting thousands of years of civilization. It has time-honored friendship with Morocco. As we always remember, as early as in the 14th century, one Moroccan named Ibn Battuta traveled to China despite long and tortuous journey. He wrote a book based on his three-year living in China and thus brought Chinese culture back to Morocco. After that, Morocco-China relationship becomes even closer. I admire the Chinese people for their diligence, to which I believe the great Chinese civilization owes its credit.
Huanqiu.com: What do you believe is the biggest achievement of this FOCAC?
Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani: This FOCAC shows that to help Africa overcome its development obstacles is in the interest of not only African countries but also of China, that is, China-Africa cooperation serves our mutual interest. Currently, imbalance still exists among countries in the world, for which Africa suffers the most. Internationally speaking, South-South Cooperation is never an easy task, but China keeps committed to pushing forward that. The FOCAC this year has become an example of this kind of cooperation, which I think is the biggest achievement.
Huanqiu.com: Having said that, China-Africa Cooperation has always been accused of so-called "Neo-colonialism". During this year's forum, Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged to grant a loan of two billion US dollars to Africa, two times that of 2009 forum. Many western media regard this as a way of "swinging Africa to China's side by using sweeteners". How do you respond to that?
Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani: What is stressed on the forum is that China-Africa cooperation is win-win cooperation. Africa needs China for technology transfer and investment; China needs Africa for raw material and other things.
This is the reason why so many state leaders and ministerial officials from Africa come to attend this forum. They will not come if they don't believe it is in the interest of their country and people. Their participation in itself answers the question.
"The only way to redress the trade imbalance is to increase China's investment in Africa."
Huanqiu.com: Admittedly, there exist problems in China-Africa trade. According to foreign media, Zuma, president of the South Africa, proposed at the forum on July 19th that the trade imbalance behind the booming Africa-China trade is "unsustainable" in the long run. So from the perspective of Morocco, what efforts will be made to redress the trade balance and make it healthier?
Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani: The de facto trade balance can hardly achieve due to our differences in economic structure. This is why leaders from Africa ask China to increase investment in Africa. It is the only way to redress the balance.
From the perspective of Morocco, we have built a good platform that is fairly attractive to Chinese investment. What's more, our favorable geographical location and sound cooperation relationship with many other countries have also played an important role in attracting Chinese investors.
Huanqiu.com: Could you please give us some examples?
Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani: Morocco signed FTA with about 55 countries in the world; therefore, we have a huge consumer market full of potential and business opportunities for Chinese investors. Besides, we are also committed to developing infrastructure and communication, which I believe are conducive to attracting investment, and last but not least, we also have a large pool of well-trained and cost-effective labor force.
Morocco is building its strategy of "Small Country with Big Diplomacy".
Huanqiu.com: Though small in terms of national territory, Morocco has been playing a very positive role on the world stage, including being a positive mediator in the Syrian crisis. Would you mind sharing with us your experience in promoting this strategy as foreign minister?
Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani: Small as we may be, Morocco has played an important role in regional affairs, which I think is based on our good relationship with the Arabian World, other African countries, Mediterranean countries, EU and other regional groupings.
We are not a permanent member of UN Security Council, but we stay committed to helping these areas (here refers to Syria according to the journalist) maintain stability. In that sense, Morocco does play a positive role.
Huanqiu.com: Morocco declared on July 16th that Syrian ambassador to Morocco was "unwelcome" and demanded the ambassador to leave Morocco. May I ask on what grounds this decision was made?
Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani: I'm sorry that Kofi Annan, the UN and Arab League special envoy to Syria, failed his mission. We have seen more and more civilians in Syria are being slaughtered and the Damascus failed to make any promise to improve the situation. That's why we made such a decision; we want to keep the pressure on the Syrian government.
"Morocco respects China's position on the Syrian issue."
Huanqiu.com: China and Russia vetoed again the UN resolution on Syria on July 19th. How do you perceive China's position on Syria?
Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani: We respect China's position. We hope that China can lend more support to UN to put an end to slaughter in Syria and resolve the Syrian crisis at the earliest date.
Huanqiu.com: Let's talk about something easy and relaxing. Morocco is known as the "City of Luxury" for it often holds F1 World Championship and it is home to many grand casinos and exhibitions of luxury goods. Would you please show our readers some flavor of Morocco?
Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani: My pleasure. Morocco is a country with a long history, boasting colorful and diverse cultures and distinctive beautiful scenery endowed by its ocean and desert. More and more Chinese have come to taste the flavor of Morocco and we hope this number will keep increasing. Chinese people have left rather favorable impressions on Moroccan people and they are welcome to visit Morocco.