The French Minister of Foreign Trade, Olivier Becht, called on Tuesday to "overcome the tensions" between France and Morocco, fuelled among other things by the restrictions on Schengen visas issued to Moroccans.
The decision by Paris in September 2021 to halve the granting of visas to Morocco and Algeria, arguing the reluctance of these countries to take back their nationals in an irregular situation in France, has been particularly unwelcome by Moroccans.
"We have gone through a period of tension in recent years. We must write a new page," pleaded Olivier Becht, on an official visit to Morocco.
"We must overcome these tensions to build joint projects," he said before the French community at the French Embassy in Morocco, citing renewable energy, infrastructure, shipbuilding and rail, and aerospace.
France's visa restriction has been called "unjustified" by the government and "a great blunder" in intellectual circles. This tightening triggered waves of indignation on social networks and in the Moroccan media and cast a pall over relations between Rabat and Paris.
High-level discussions have taken place between the French and Moroccan authorities on this subject since the spring of 2022, according to French diplomatic officials. They are still ongoing.
Other sources of Moroccan discontent include the position of Paris, which is considered too wait-and-see on the issue of the disputed territory of Western Sahara - a "national cause" - and France's new honeymoon with Algeria, a major regional rival.
During his visit to Casablanca and Rabat, until Thursday, the French Minister for Foreign Trade was to meet with the Moroccan Minister of Industry and Trade Ryad Mezzour, and his colleague in charge of investment, Mohcine Jazouli. He will also meet with investors and participate in an African business forum.
The first objective of his visit is to strengthen the bilateral economic partnership, and in particular to boost industrial investment with Morocco, the "hub of Africa".
France is the first foreign investor in Morocco. In 2021, France's trade with Morocco amounted to 10.7 billion euros.
"We can undoubtedly integrate Morocco more into French value chains and make better use of our geographical, linguistic and cultural proximity," said Becht in an interview with the Moroccan daily L'Economiste published Tuesday.