Morocco threatens to close down Turkish retailer amid trade talks

RABAT, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Morocco has asked Turkish retailer BIM to raise the proportion of local goods it sells in the country to at least half or face a shutdown, the trade minister said late on Monday.

The North African kingdom is reviewing a free trade deal it struck with Turkey in 2004, but which it now views as responsible for part of its $2 billion trade deficit with the country.

The Turkish chain “invests in Morocco with Turkish support and wherever they open, 60 Moroccan shops get closed”, Trade Minister Moulay Hafid Elalamy told members of parliament.

Turkey will now review a list of Moroccan complaints related to the trade accord, he said. The two countries last month announced a deadline of Jan. 30 to reach agreement on amending the deal, but that was extended.

Elalamy said he now expected the issue to be resolved within weeks. If no agreement is reached, the deal will be scrapped, he said, adding that the deal had cost Morocco 44,000 textile jobs in 2017.

The Minister also said Turkish investment in Morocco did not exceed 1% of total foreign direct investment, a figure he said was too low.

“With other countries, there is also a deficit that is compensated by investments,” Elalamy said.

Morocco’s total trade deficit expanded by 1.5% to 209 billion dirhams ($21.6 bln) in 2019 compared with a year earlier, the foreign exchange regulator’s figures show. (Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi, editing by Ed Osmond)