Morocco establishes ‘strategic partnership’ with China
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.