Morocco establishes ‘strategic partnership’ with China

Sunday 15/05/2016
China’s President Xi Jinping (R) and Moroccan King Mohammed VI shake hands after signing documents during a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on May 11th.

Casablanca - Morocco’s King Mo­hammed VI paid a two-day state visit to China as part of his strategy to expanding his country’s portfolio of strategic allies.
The China visit May 11th-12th fol­lowed visits by the king to Russia and Arab Gulf countries.
The Moroccan monarch, accom­panied by advisers and ministers, sought to bolster economic and po­litical ties with Beijing, the world’s second largest economy and third largest military power.
Morocco and China, which es­tablished diplomatic ties in 1958, signed a series of bilateral agree­ments, including a strategic part­nership based on mutual respect, equality and interests, during cere­monies that included Chinese Pres­ident Xi Jinping and the Moroccan monarch.
“Building a strategic partner­ship is a milestone in the develop­ment of bilateral ties. China has always attached an importance to Sino-Moroccan relations and sees Morocco as an important regional partner. The bilateral ties will come to a new starting point after the es­tablishment of this strategic part­nership,” Xi said.
“The strategic partnership will be a turning point for Morocco’s development. Morocco is willing to enhance cooperation with China in various fields,” said King Moham­med VI.
He announced that Chinese trav­ellers would be exempt from entry visas to Morocco as of June 1st, a bid by Morocco to attract investors and tourists.
Trade volume between the two countries reached about $3.43 bil­lion in 2015, making China Moroc­co’s fourth largest trading partner. However, the North African coun­try seeks to reduce a large deficit in trade balance by luring more Chi­nese direct investment.
Chinese investments through companies established in Morocco amount to $200 million. These firms mainly operate in the infor­mation technology and telecom­munications sectors. They are also involved in fisheries, through the China National Fisheries Corpora­tion joint venture, and in the infra­structure sector, such as building roads.
Morocco’s stronger partnership with China is a sign that the North African kingdom is seeking politi­cal and economic partners far from its traditional markets, which had been mainly the European Union.
“The biggest achievement of the king’s state visit is the establish­ment of the strategic partnership between the two countries. It lays a solid foundation for a smooth co­operation in various fields between China and Morocco for a consider­ably long period of time,” said Chi­nese Vice-Minister of Foreign Af­fairs Zhang Ming.
China has emerged as Africa’s largest trading partner, competing with the European Union. Chinese overseas direct investments in the continent reached $26 billion in 2013, the most recent year of which data are available. The Export-Im­port Bank of China has pledged $1 trillion to Africa in the coming dec­ade.
“Moroccans do not want the made in China, already entrenched in their economies, but made by China in Morocco,” said Meryem Bensalah Chaqroun, president of the General Confederation of En­terprises of Morocco, during the China-Africa Summit of Entrepre­neurs last November in Marrakech.
Morocco has the potential to lure more of China’s industrial compa­nies to set up business in the coun­try, offering a competitively young workforce and a strategic location as a gateway to both Europe and Africa.
The Moroccan king noted the strategic partnership would inject new vitality into the two countries’ relations.
“Morocco is willing to be an im­portant cooperative partner of China in Africa and among the Arab states,” said the king.

11