Analysis | How can the U.S. government counter Chinese influence in Morocco?


With a Belt and Road Initiative agreement signed and a push by the PRC for further investment in Morocco’s technology sector, the United States should be looking at how to deepen its ties with Morocco.

Lilybeth Chavez

Secretary Blinken meets with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita at the Department of State in Washington, DC, on March 23, 2023. (Image: State Department by Chuck Kennedy/ Public Domain on Flickr)

In January 2022, Morocco was the first North African country to sign an agreement with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Now, Morocco’s long-standing pro-U.S. affiliation is at a crossroads, as Morocco has turned to China because of the potential for economic development from foreign investments. The United States government needs to reaffirm its support for the Moroccan government by increasing investments in the tech sector, establishing political partnerships, and continuing support for counterterrorism operations in Morocco. If not, Morocco will pivot to China and the Chinese government will use Morocco as a starting point for Chinese influence in North and Western Africa.

A strong relationship with Morocco is important because of the country’s political stability, relative wealth, and proximity to Europe. The stability and economic development of Morocco will be pertinent to future issues, particularly climate-induced migration from northern and Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe. Moreover, Morocco is important for China, the United States, and European countries since it has access to the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the African continent. Additionally, Morocco is of strategic importance because of its growing energy sector, which has expanded in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Counterterrorism efforts between the United States and Morocco successfully reflect strong relations between the two countries.

Morocco’s pivot to China has political consequences for the United States. For example, unlike the United States, Morocco currently abstains from commenting on issues relating to China’s humanitarian issues. The recent successes of U.S. diplomacy might be temporary if China’s influence grows strong. Weaker U.S.-Morocco relations will likely impact Moroccan-Israeli relations as well since the United States was a key factor in why the countries were able to improve relations. Morocco’s agreement to the Abraham Accords in 2020 proved the country was open to collaborating with U.S. allies to increase peace and stability in the region. As a result, Israel is interested in sharing its expertise and technology with Morocco to facilitate territorial governance and counterterrorism efforts. Strong diplomatic relations with the United States and its allies have tangible benefits for the Moroccan government.

The Moroccan-Chinese relationship is increasingly focused on developing Morocco’s tech industry, which remains a key priority for the Moroccan government. In 2019, King Mohammed VI announced plans for the Mohammed VI Tangier Tech City, which is expected to become the largest Chinese investment project in North Africa. There are plenty of American companies which have the capabilities to support the development of Morocco’s tech sector. It is critical that the U.S. increase its investments because Morocco is quickly developing electricity generation projects across the region. The U.S. should not miss out on this unique opportunity. The U.S. government needs to provide logistical support for U.S. businesses so they can swiftly set up operations in Morocco.

To counter the potential for Chinese inroads, the United States government should focus on ways it can further aid Morocco economically to consolidate its partnership. For example, the U.S. government can look at investing in Moroccan infrastructure, to better assist U.S. companies operating in Morocco, as well as improving its relationship with King Mohamed V. This could be accentuated in the short-term by U.S. government officials emphasizing to their Moroccan counterparts that Morocco is the only African country with a U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Since January 2006, this deal has successfully reduced trade barriers and improved commercial opportunities in Morocco.

Additionally, the U.S. government should further support the American Chamber of Commerce in Morocco (AmCham). This organization directly supports Morocco and U.S. interests with mentorship and training programs for businesses. AmCham also provides support, guidance, and resources for Moroccan businesses looking to do business in the United States.

The United States can also call upon its European partners to support investments from Western-based tech companies in Morocco. It is in the interest of Western countries to minimize Chinese influence in North Africa. The United States, Spain, and France governments can leverage cultural ties to Morocco to establish a relationship that meets the new direction of the Moroccan government. If Morocco wants to develop its tech sector, it should be able to call upon the U.S. and European countries to help attain this goal.

Hope remains for Western countries in countering the PRC’s influence in Morocco. Morocco is still perceived as a pro-U.S. state and the current counterterrorism partnership with the United States government is quite successful. Morocco has benefitted from U.S.-sponsored programs to improve the country’s counterterrorism capabilities. The U.S. and Morocco have successfully co-hosted counterterrorism exercises through the Africa Focus Group of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. This partnership has been valuable for the security of the country. The State Department reported no terrorist activity incidents in Morocco for 2021. In 2022, Secretary Blinken visited Morocco and committed to continuing their successful counterterrorism partnership.

The United States needs to counter Chinese influence in Morocco by investing in the country’s tech sector. China was able to convince the Moroccan government to sign a Belt and Road Initiative agreement because Morocco did not see Western countries providing such investment or an alternative. While the United States works on improving the tech sector in Morocco, it should also emphasize the success of the existing Free Trade Agreement and the counterterrorism partnership.



Institute for the Study of Diplomacy
The Diplomatic Pouch

Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy brings together diplomats, other practitioners, scholars, and students to explore global challenges

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