Rabat – The Kingdom of Morocco and the People’s Republic of China signed – last Wednesday, January 5th, via video communication technology – an agreement on the “Joint Implementation Plan for the Belt and Road Initiative”.
Since its inception, Morocco was one of the first countries in Africa to join the “Belt and Road” initiative, by signing in 2017 a memorandum of understanding that allows the Kingdom to establish several partnerships in promising sectors such as infrastructure, advanced industries and technology.
The Belt and Road Initiative – also known as the New Silk Road or the 21st Century Silk Road – is based on pumping huge investments to develop the infrastructure of global economic corridors, linking more than 70 countries, and was launched by the Chinese President in 2013, and aims to establish a land belt of railways Iron and roads through Central Asia and Russia, and a sea route allowing China to reach Africa and Europe, at a total cost of a trillion dollars.
If China is looking, through its plan, to enhance the access of its exports to various countries of the world, how will Morocco benefit from this plan?
Financing and attracting investment
According to the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the “Joint Implementation Plan for the Belt and Road Initiative” agreement aims to encourage access to Chinese funds stipulated in the “Belt and Road Initiative”, with the aim of implementing projects in Morocco, facilitating trade exchanges, and establishing mixed companies in various fields (industrial zones). and energies, including renewable energies).
According to the same source, this agreement is also concerned with cooperation in research and development (technology, energy, agriculture…) and technological and technical cooperation, as well as vocational training.
Under this agreement, the Chinese government pledges to encourage major Chinese companies to invest in Morocco, especially in the automotive, aviation, high-tech, e-commerce, agricultural and textile industries.
During his speech, Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita said that the “Belt and Road Initiative” opens new horizons in the field of trade and investments, and brings additional opportunities that are compatible with the new development model of the Kingdom.
The head of the Moroccan-Chinese Friendship and Exchange Association, Mohamed Khalil, said – in an interview with Al Jazeera Net – that the agreement is an important step that came to implement previous strategic agreements, especially the strategic partnership between Morocco and China in 2016, and the 2017 agreement.
Khalil considered that Morocco is betting on bringing in more investments, and expressed optimism; Especially since the agreement is sponsored by the state, which encourages Chinese companies to invest. He believes that the new step will further encourage Chinese investors, pointing out that the ground has been prepared for the Chinese who are gradually getting to know Morocco and are interested in it as an investment destination.
King Mohammed VI of Morocco paid an official visit to China in 2016, which witnessed the signing of a joint declaration on strategic partnership, in addition to 32 agreements and memoranda of understanding in several fields.
In November 2020, a Chinese investment group entered a 35% stake in the “Mohammed VI Tanger-Tech City Development Company”, a modern industrial city connected to new technologies, which is expected to create about 100,000 direct jobs.
Partnership and dynamism
Bourita stresses that the joint implementation plan of the Belt and Road Initiative represents an integrated tool for strengthening bilateral partnership, strategic management, and tangible activation of a comprehensive partnership.
Bilateral trade between China and Morocco has grown by 50 percent over the past five years, from an average of $4 billion in 2016 to $6 billion by 2021.
After the lifting of the visa for Chinese tourists, the scene of the masses of Chinese tourists became familiar (especially before the pandemic) and a group of Moroccan cities witnessed the opening of Chinese restaurants in them, and the tourism sector grew 20 times, as the number of Chinese visitors moved from 10,000 only in 2015 to 200,000 people year 2018.
More than 80 joint projects with China or Chinese companies are active in Morocco, under implementation throughout the Kingdom, and Morocco and China have maintained multi-dimensional cooperation, manifested during the Covid-19 pandemic, through partnership in the field of health and vaccination, which It culminated in the signing in July 2021 of a memorandum of cooperation on the vaccine against COVID-19 between Morocco and the national pharmaceutical group of China “Sinopharm”, and a memorandum of understanding on the development of vaccine manufacturing capabilities in the Kingdom of Morocco between Morocco and the company “Recipharm”, The sterile packaging facilities of the Moroccan company Sothema specialized in the pharmaceutical industry, for the manufacture of the anti-Covid-19 vaccine, were made available to Morocco.
According to Ning Jie, Vice Chairman of the Chinese National Reform and Development Committee, China’s direct investments in Morocco amounted to 380 million dollars, the majority of which are allocated to infrastructure, communications and marine fishing.
Bilateral trade volume reached 4.76 billion dollars, an increase of 2 percent despite the COVID-19 pandemic and stagnant international trade, and the trade volume is expected to exceed 6 billion dollars this year.
Bourita says that the partnership between Morocco and China derives its strength from openness to Africa, noting that the signed agreement explicitly provides for tripartite cooperation for the benefit of the continent.
He highlighted that Morocco and China will engage in the launch and joint implementation of tripartite cooperation projects aimed at promoting sustainable development in Africa, and Bourita concluded that Morocco – which imposes itself as an African, Arab and Mediterranean country pivotal in activating the “Belt and Road Initiative” – is a partner with the same ambition as China. of making the “Belt and Road Initiative” a success for South-South cooperation.
The Chinese authorities had designated Morocco a “pivotal country” in the framework of the “Belt and Road” initiative.
Mohamed Khalil says that Morocco, due to its geographical location close to Europe and its distinguished relations with West African countries, in addition to its association with more than 45 free trade agreements with many countries, is a bridge of cooperation in the African field.