March 23, 2015
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As the world's technologies change, so do the countries with not only advantages in production, but also geography and diplomacy. China knows this, and sees that investing in Moroccan resources is a particularly smart bet in the long run.
PARIS — Amid the global reshuffling triggered by both the ecological and geopolitical upheaval, there is one country that seems to be coming out ahead: Morocco.
Several major investments have already been announced, including one last week worth $2 billion by a Chinese group which aims to produce electric battery components. A significant detail, according to the Financial Times, is that the conglomerate Al-Mada, which is owned by the Moroccan royal family, is investing in the joint venture with the Chinese group CNGR.
Other South Korean and Chinese investments, still related to ecological transition minerals or the battery industry, have announced they will be setting up shop in Morocco in recent months. They are setting a record for the Mediterranean basin.
This choice is doubly significant for the Chinese. Firstly, Chinese investors no longer feel welcome in the West and are opting for third-party countries. Morocco is one such country — it has already joined China's Belt and Road Initiative and has no qualms about dealing with Beijing.
Moroccan products will not be excluded from subsidies.
Morocco is also bound by trade agreements with Europe and the U.S. This allows "Made in Morocco" products to bypass the obstacles that seem to be arising for "Made in China" in the automotive industry. Especially in the U.S., Moroccan products will not be excluded from subsidies thanks to the free trade agreement, which is crucial.
To gauge how far things have come, allow me to share a personal memory: precisely 20 years ago, when I was a correspondent in Beijing, a Moroccan newspaper contacted me. They asked for advice to give to Moroccan entrepreneurs who were about to receive the first Chinese trade delegation in the country. It was a blank page, and Moroccans didn't know what to expect.
Twenty years later, investments are multiplying, and Morocco is the third destination for the Chinese capital in Africa.
Al Mada headquarters in Casablanca
What we are witnessing is a true reshuffling of the deck on a global scale due to technological and geopolitical changes. For example, China, which was entirely absent from the automotive industry, has risen to the top spot in the world for electric cars, which represent the future segment.
Similarly, this technological shift is making countries like Indonesia, Chile and the Democratic Republic of the Congo even more prominent because of their reserves of key minerals. These countries are trying to move up the value chain, beyond just exporting raw materials. Indonesia has even gone so far as to ban the export of nickel, aiming to build its own complete industry.
New competitors are emerging with stronger cost advantages and flexible geopolitical positioning.
Western countries are in a difficult position: they are trying to repatriate or create jobs domestically that they have been outsourcing for 20 years. But they see new competitors emerging with stronger cost advantages and flexible geopolitical positioning. Morocco is one of them, a friend of both Washington and Beijing and close to the European market. The Chinese have not overlooked this fact.