Investments key

by Andrew Carter

As the World Trade Organization quickly becomes more important than the United Nations, issues of economic globalization have come to the fore of international policy.
That was the conclusion of Mohamed Benaissa, University graduate and Moroccan ambassador to the United States, in a speech he gave to about 100 people Friday at the St. Paul Hotel.
Although scheduled to talk about international economic affairs, the 1963 University graduate began his speech by explaining how his time spent at the University greatly affected his career as a diplomat.
“My colleagues at the embassy have prepared a formal speech,” Benaissa said. “But today, I want to talk from my heart. For it was in this state, in this city, where I was reborn. I learned in America how to listen. I learned to be humble. I learned how to work nonstop.”
In addition to praising American values, Benaissa also commended American political and economic strategies and argued that America has set a historical precedent for the entire world. He called on American leaders not to repeat the French and Spanish style of colonial rule that Benaissa witnessed as a boy in Morocco.
“We are on the eve of new management. America, in this sphere, is the landmark between agrarian society and urban society,” Benaissa said. “We must bring about a balanced globalization of the world economy.”
He went on to explain how America could financially help countries such as Morocco. In his speech, titled “The Global Economy: A Moroccan Perspective,” at the Minnesota International Center World Affairs Luncheon Forum, he said forgiving debts is essential to the Moroccan recovery.
Benaissa argued that Western nations must relinquish some of the debt that countries like Morocco racked up during the Cold War years.
Benaissa also used the forum as an opportunity to criticize Americans for not investing enough in Morocco and argued that the tendency to view investments in Morocco as high risk is unfair.
Benaissa argued there were strong ties between America and Morocco and pointed out that many of its intellectual elite were educated in America, including 128 students with doctoral degrees and 200 more with master’s degrees from the University. Benaissa also pointed out that leaders have constructed a solid economic platform in Morocco.
“We have democratic institutions. We have basic liberties, such as freedom of speech and assembly. We have stability and security,” Benaissa said.
Despite Benaissa’s focus on similarities, issues of human rights abuses incurred during a decade-long conflict with the Sahrawi tribesman in the Western Sahara have traditionally been viewed as investment risks and obstacles for American foreign aid to Morocco.
During this bitter territorial dispute, the Sahrawi tribe’s political arm, called the Polisario Front, has been flying U.S. politicians and diplomats to the Western Sahara in order to put political pressure on Morocco to relinquish its claim to the land.
According to the July 13, 1998 Legal Times journal, Morocco has begun fighting back and hired the Washington-based lobbying firm Cassidy and Associates for $1.2 million a year to shore up congressional support and alter its human rights image.
“This is no point of insecurity,” Benaissa said in a post-speech interview. “We have closed the issue on human rights. Cassidy and Associates is used by many countries for many different reasons. We use Cassidy like many firms use Cassidy.”