[symple_box] International columnist, political analyst and senior journalist Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui’s articles are published across Asia, Africa and Europe. He writes for The Moroccan Times, The Tunis Times, India Tomorrow, Kohram News, The Etemaad Urdu Daily and for news papers published from Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. You can follow him on Twitter at: @journopolana[/symple_box]
King Mohammed VI of Morocco will pay a 2-day official visit to China beginning 11 May 2016. The wise ruler’s visit will open new vistas of cooperation aimed at strategic partnership with China. It may be recalled that Morocco and China share a long history of friendly relations and bilateral exchanges. The famous Moroccan traveller from Tangier, Ibn Battuta set his foot in China in the 14th century. He expressed amazement at the grandeur of the then Chinese civilization. At the end of his extensive travels to different countries that lasted 29 years, Ibn Battuta narrated his adventures in a travel account. He dedicated an entire chapter to describe his stay in China. The China saga continues!
As on today, the Morocco – China bilateral economic, social and cultural ties are closer than ever. In 2015, the bilateral trade was to the tune of $2.51 billion in the first nine months.
King Mohammed VI is respected for the vision he has for Morocco. The China visit will lay a new road map of economic progress with economic cooperation of unseen levels. Morocco can play a major role in the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative (Belt and Road Initiative) proposed by the Chinese Government.
The Belt and Road Initiative is aimed at fostering cooperation along the historical Silk Road and maritime routes. Given the magnitude of the initiative, with the maritime part spanning the three continents of Africa, Europe and Asia, the potential outcome is undoubtedly very promising. Morocco has welcomed and embraced the initiative fully and is quite optimistic about it.
Due to Morocco’s strategic depth in West Africa, which was built on historical, cultural and religious relations, Morocco can play an effective role in linking the West African countries to the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and open new vistas of cooperation and opportunities in the fast-growing economies of West Africa and other nations.
Morocco’s agriculture has reportedly developed at around 7.7 percent since the launch of the Green Morocco Plan of 2008. With China promoting cooperation with Africa in agricultural modernization, the Moroccan Government adopted a strategy to drive and reform the agricultural sector, promote the integration of agriculture in the global markets. This will help agriculture achieve sustainable growth. The Green Morocco Plan comprises of 1,500 projects and requires more than $10 billion for their implementation by 2020. Morocco is an agriculture-based country. Morocco is a founding member of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. This has ensured that agricultural modernization is pushed up in the agenda of priorities. The areas of agricultural cooperation include a number of areas such as irrigation, aquaculture, fertilizers, mechanization and agricultural research.
Morocco and China have signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a Chinese cultural centre in Morocco. It is significant to note that cultural exchanges and cooperation between Morocco and China are increasing. Presently, there are two Confucius Institutes in Morocco. A large number of Moroccan youth are learning the Chinese language. These youth already have a taste of Chinese culture and the Chinese way of life through courses in high school. More Moroccan students are going to China for higher studies. Cultural weeks have been held in China to provide the local Chinese people with a better picture of life in Morocco. They presented the Moroccan art forms, rich historical and cultural heritage.
Due to the unique geographical location at the crossroads of the main trade routes linking Africa, Europe and the Middle East, Morocco has become the region’s export hub. Morocco has emerged as an ideal investment destination. This vital geo-strategic position is crucial for the incorporation of investments into the international economy. What makes investment in Morocco a profitable and lucrative experience is a combination of many factors. Morocco has qualified, experienced and competitive labour force. The reduced tax rates have put Morocco on the international competitive export arena.
Morocco has concluded a number of free trade agreements and is negotiating with more 55 countries. This accounts for more than one billion consumers and 60 percent of the world GDP. Moroccans are interested in other cultures. Hence, communication is not a hindrance. Many Moroccan youth are learning foreign languages including the Chinese language.
The legal framework governing bilateral relations between Morocco and China covers more than 130 agreements in various fields of cooperation. It is expected that a direct flight between Morocco and China will be launched soon. Efforts are on to open a consular office outside Beijing and a visa office outside the chancery with more capacity to process the increasing number of applications from the Chinese tourists, who wish to visit Morocco.
The first bilateral economic forum between Morocco and China was held in November 2014. The second one is expected to be organized soon. King Mohammed VI’s visit may speed up this process. Many important agreements are expected during the royal visit to China. These may include a currency swap agreement and a partnership agreement between Casablanca –Morocco’s financial hub and Shanghai — China’s financial capital. The launch of twin city programmes can also be expected.
The royal state visit had been scheduled in 2014 and then postponed many times due to no given reason. The excellent relations between Morocco and China will be further reinforced and enhanced due to the royal presence. During this visit, a number of agreements are expected to be signed within the framework of strategic partnership. Nobody understands the changing political and economic equations in the world better than the far sighted King Mohammed VI. The Moroccan – Chinese relations are set for an unprecedented leap for the benefit of both the countries.