Rabat - China has proposed a free trade agreement with Morocco, according to a report by the local news source Les Eco.
Rabat – China has proposed a free trade agreement with Morocco, according to a report by the local news source Les Eco.
The state-run press agency of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) said the two countries “are on track to conclude a series of strategic agreements covering the economy, trade, and investments in Africa.”
News of the proposal comes less than a week after King Mohammed VI gave a speech at the joint Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh, during which he said Morocco was looking to “diversify” its economic and political relationships by seeking stronger partnerships with major Asian countries, such as China and India.
China has been developing its relationship with many African countries in recent years, causing leaders from the United States and European states to be concerned about the communist country’s influence in the continent.
A 2015 report from the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations said the driving force behind the PRC’s increased interest in the distant continent involves China’s energy needs, which it hopes to fulfill through some of Africa’s oil and natural gas giants, such as Nigeria, Sudan and Angola, to name a few.
Morocco’s status as a net oil and gas importer has limited Chinese interest in the North African country in the past, though a 2013 study by U.S. researchers counted 36 Chinese projects in the kingdom between the years 2000 and 2012. Another factor mitigating bilateral relations could include Morocco’s strong ties to its European neighbors and the United States, most of whom view China with suspicion.
The tables have been turning in recent months, however, as Morocco looks to gain new allies in its territorial dispute with the separatist Polisario Front in the Western Sahara.
Among other developments, the Bank of China opened its first Moroccan branch in Casablanca last month and the Moroccan royal family participated in New Year’s celebrations in Hong Kong this year.