The Algerian state has vetoed the entry of products passing through Moroccan ports in the past

Algeria challenges Morocco economically

Vista general del puerto comercial de Argel - REUTERS/RAMZI BOUDINA
General view of the commercial port of Algiers - REUTERS/RAMZI BOUDINA

Algeria increases political tension with Morocco and challenges the Moroccan kingdom economically. 

  1. Dispute over Western Sahara

The Algerian state has decreed a veto on the entry of goods that have previously passed through Moroccan ports, and this represents an escalation in tension with its Maghreb neighbour.

Thus, the Algerian Association of Banks and Financial Institutions (ABEF) officially communicated the decision to "refuse any direct debit operation of transport contracts that foresees transhipment/transit through Moroccan ports". In other words, before any domiciliation of transport contracts, the question of passage through ports in the Kingdom must be checked. 

Various sectors analyse this decision as an attack on Morocco and an initiative that benefits Spain, mainly as part of the latest Algerian moves that are leading to a new rapprochement with Spain, such as allowing the importation of certain Spanish products from the agricultural sector. 

Thus, this new scenario now gives Spanish and other countries' products an advantage over Moroccan products when it comes to entering the Algerian market. The advantage would come from avoiding passing through Moroccan port infrastructures. 

Various Moroccan media have seen this Algerian decision as a way of affecting the nation's trade and exports, which is a frontal attack on the Moroccan economy and the activity of several key infrastructures in the Moroccan kingdom, such as the port of Tangier-Med, which is the most important port in terms of container traffic in Africa and the Mediterranean, as the media outlet Challenge pointed out. 

It has also been suggested that this initiative is a desperate response by Algeria to Morocco's recent move to focus on promoting commercial access to the Atlantic from the Sahel region, under the directives given by King Mohammed VI, which is also a blow to Algeria's influence in the territory and a rise of Moroccan diplomatic power in the area. 

Vista general del puerto de contenedores de Tánger-Med en Ksar Sghir, cerca de la ciudad costera de Tánger - REUTERS/YOUSSEF BOUDDAL
General view of the Tangier-Med container port at Ksar Sghir, near the coastal city of Tangier - REUTERS/YOUSSEF BOUDDAL

Dispute over Western Sahara

Tension between the two Maghreb neighbours is high. Algeria already broke off diplomatic relations with Morocco in August 2021 after accusing the Moroccan kingdom of "hostile acts", a decision that was probably related to the various political disagreements between the two countries, especially over the Western Sahara issue. 

Morocco claims Western Sahara as its own and is putting forward a proposal for broad autonomy for the territory under Moroccan sovereignty, respecting UN resolutions, with a view to developing the area as much as possible in various areas and with the aim of putting an end to more than four decades of Sahrawi differences since Spain left at the end of the colonial period. 

Over the years, the Moroccan kingdom has obtained support for its initiative from many important countries such as the United States, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Germany and even Spain, which consider the proposal to be the most serious, credible and realistic way of settling the Western Sahara dispute.

On the other hand, the Polisario Front proposes holding a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi people, which, according to several analysts, is difficult to achieve and has less support, including Algeria, Morocco's great political enemy in the Maghreb. 

Puesto fronterizo entre Marruecos y Mauritania en Guerguerat, situado en el Sáhara Occidental - AFP/FADEL SENNA
Border crossing point between Morocco and Mauritania at Guerguerat in Western Sahara - AFP/FADEL SENNA

Algeria did not take kindly to Spain's decision to support Morocco's proposal for Western Sahara, a Spanish-Moroccan rapprochement that led to a personal meeting between King Mohammed VI and Pedro Sánchez, the Spanish prime minister, and a subsequent High Level Meeting (HLM) in Rabat in February 2023 that led to the signing of many beneficial agreements in various sectors. 

The Algerian state responded to this situation with measures affecting trade with Spain and the distribution of natural gas, an energy source of which Algeria is a major exporter. Recently, however, there has been a rapprochement between Algeria and Spain, with signs such as the recent Algerian permission for the import of certain Spanish agricultural products, which represents the beginning of a normalisation of Spanish-Algerian trade relations. 

Gente comprando en el supermercado en Argel, Argelia - REUTERS/RAMZI BOUDINAA
People shopping at the supermarket in Algiers, Algeria - REUTERS/RAMZI BOUDINAA

It should be noted that the Algerian economy had suffered from the shortage of certain products from Spain, which affected consumers in the North African country for months. Now, with trade relations with Spain beginning to resume, Algerian citizens may see their situation improve, with a greater supply of products on the domestic market, which may even lead to lower prices.