Morocco gradually abandons France: Paris loses its privileged position to Russians,Chinese and Americans







Hamza Metioui


From the time of Morocco’s independence until a few years ago, France was the country that the Kingdom of Morocco relied on the most in many of its strategic areas, to the extent that Rabat was called in the French media as “France’s back garden”, which explains why it gained previliged position in many areas such as investments related to infrastructure, business partnerships and various industries in Morocco.

However, this is no longer the case in recent years, as Morocco has become a country that believes in the multiplicity of partners, and in the economic interest according to the logic of “win-win”, so it was not surprising that Spain became the first trading partner of the Kingdom, and that America turned into the main supplier of the Moroccan army with weapons, and for China to open the door for investment in infrastructure, and for Russia to prepare to build a Moroccan nuclear reactor.

Russia and the nuclear experience

The issue of finding an alternative to France regarding a set of strategic partnerships is no longer a complicated matter for Morocco, and if there is clear evidence of this, it is the desire that emerged in the Kingdom in order to obtain a nuclear reactor for peaceful uses, which guarantees obtaining a new, clean source of electrical energy, this prompted Rabat to enter into a partnership contract with Russia, which was formalized after it was signed by the Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin.

Originally, Morocco was looking at the possibility of completing this project in partnership with France, and the latter gave its approval for it years ago, but it has become procrastinating due to fears of Algeria’s anger, and the interesting thing is that this excuse was not on the table with Moscow, which is the capital with which Algeria has stronger relations, as Russia is the first supplier of weapons to the North African nation, however, it began preparing for the completion of the nuclear reactor with Rabat after King Mohammed VI’s visit to Russia and his meeting with President Vladimir Putin in 2016.

This is related to an agreement between the Russian state corporation specialized in the field of nuclear energy “Rosatom” and the Moroccan government, with the aim of supporting the Kingdom’s goals in establishing a nuclear reactor and improving the existing nuclear infrastructure, which ensures the peaceful use of this energy in 14 fields, including electricity production, desalination of seawater, and the establishment of a station for primary particle accelerators used in electric charging operations.

The agreement also includes reliance on the Russian experience in the field of dealing with nuclear waste and recycling radioactive nuclear fuel, in addition to the exploration for uranium deposits and the search for mineral resources. It also includes a formative aspect to be conducted by the Russian experts for the employees of Moroccan nuclear plants and workers at the National Center for Energy and Science and nuclear technologies, based on a prior agreement signed between Rabat and Moscow in 2018.

China and the competition for the TGV

France is no longer the only partner of choice for Morocco, even in the field of infrastructure, which is currently evident when talking about the new high-speed train line project linking Casablanca and Agadir. Although Paris was the first to complete the “Al-Buraq” line linking Tangier and Casablanca, passing through Kenitra and Rabat, it is no longer the common name for the new double line, which includes Casablanca-Marrakech, then Marrakech-Agadir. China seems closer to winning the deal.

If France had benefited from the establishment of the “Al-Buraq” line through “Alstom”, and then by financing it through loans that covered 50 percent of its total cost of 23 billion dirhams, China entered the line of competition regarding future projects, by showing interest in the lines of Marrakesh, Agadir, and even the Fez line, which was officially revealed recently, where it offered Morocco. China’s ambassador to Rabat, Li Changlin, has recently highlighted for Morocco his country’s experience that combines speed and quality.

But this matter is not the result of the Moroccan-French clash. In November of 2019, Mohamed Rabie Khlie, Director General of the National Railways Office, confirmed that Morocco is placing China at the top of its options for the completion of the high-speed train between Marrakech and Agadir, on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of “Al Buraq”. He highlighted that Morocco signed with China, during the King’s visit to it in 2016, a memorandum of understanding related to partnership in railway training and studies.

Khlie’s statement was evidence that Morocco no longer considers France the only possible partner in the field of infrastructure, because although it did not exclude it from the race, it also included Russia and China, and in pragmatic terms, he stressed that what will resolve the issue are the studies that will reveal its cost and form before The decision on the authority that will implement it, bearing in mind that the matter has become a strategic area in the transport sector in the Kingdom.

Moroccan army welcomes France’s competitors

France also lost its privilege with Morocco in the military field, as a result of the strategic alliance linking Morocco with the United States of America, which has been further strengthened since December of the year 2020, when former US President Donald Trump signed a presidential decree declaring the recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara, and its continuing effect under current President Joe Biden, this has opened the door wide for US arms suppliers in the midst of the Royal Armed Forces’ modernization process.

According to a report by the International Policy Foundation, issued in 2020, Morocco has acquired 91 percent of its weapons from the United States of America, which has been further enhanced in the past two years with deals to acquire squadrons of F-16s worth $2.8 billion and Apache helicopters worth $1.6 billion, amid talks about negotiations to supply Morocco with the latest and most efficient combat aircraft F-35 in the world, not to mention the advanced Patriot air defense systems.

In the middle of last year, the French Ministry of Defense said that Morocco was France’s first customer on the African continent in 2020, with 8 percent of its total exports to various countries of the world, surpassing Algeria, which took the lead in 2019, but what Rabat bought remains far away in terms of value and quality of the weapons purchased from the United States of America, they do not exceed 427 million euros in total, knowing that this number did not exceed 82 million euros a year earlier.

But France not only finds itself in a position of unequal competition with the United States, but it is also about competing with it on the small margin of what is left for it in the Moroccan arms system, by other countries, such as Israel, which wants to enter the field of military industrialization through the establishment of 3 Factories for Kamikazi drones, and even China, which has become one of Morocco’s leading suppliers of military drones, as well as Spain, which Rabat deals with in the field of maritime defense.


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