Morocco Joins 75 Nations In China Led ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative In Landmark Deal

by Bamidele Ogunberu Posted on November 17th, 2017

Beijing, China: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Nasser Bourita on Friday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on joint construction of the Belt and Road, state media reports.

Regarding China as a reliable partner, Bourita said Morocco supports China’s efforts to safeguard its sovereignty, territorial integrity and legitimate maritime interests.

Bourita also hoped that China and Morocco will coordinate more on politics, anti-terrorism, and major international and regional issues.

Bourita said Morocco is ready to cooperate more with China on trade, investment, and railway construction, noting that Morocco welcomes Chinese companies to expand markets in Africa and the Arab states by making use of his country’s geographical advantages.
China appreciates Morocco’s firm support of China’s core interests and major concerns, Wang said, noting that China will always support Morocco’s efforts to maintain national unity, stability and development.

Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of bilateral ties between China and Morocco. Wang called on the two countries to implement the consensus reached by their leaders to promote bilateral strategic partnership

Wang said China is willing to cooperate more with Morocco on trade, investment, military and security, culture, education and tourism, as well as major international and regional issues, while working together to safeguard common interests of developing countries.

During their talks, Wang briefed Bourita on the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held in Beijing last month, and said China is committed to building a community of shared future for humanity.

Bourita, on behalf of Morocco, extended congratulations on the success of the 19th CPC National Congress and expressed his hope that China will contribute more to global peace and development.

The Belt and Road Initiative

The Belt and Road Initiative, commonly known as the Belt and Road, which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping on visit to Central Asia and Southeast Asia in September and October of 2013.

The stated goal of the Belt and Road Initiative is to promote the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas, establish and strengthen partnerships among the countries along the Belt and Road, set up all-dimensional, multi-tiered and composite connectivity networks, and realize diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable development in these countries.

According to the framework:

“The Belt and Road run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and developed European economic circle at the other, and encompassing countries with huge potential for economic development. The Silk Road Economic Belt focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe (the Baltic); linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia; and connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road is designed to go from China’s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China’s coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other.

On land, the Initiative will focus on jointly building a new Eurasian Land Bridge and developing China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central Asia-West Asia and China-Indochina Peninsula economic corridors by taking advantage of international transport routes, relying on core cities along the Belt and Road and using key economic industrial parks as cooperation platforms. At sea, the Initiative will focus on jointly building smooth, secure and efficient transport routes connecting major sea ports along the Belt and Road. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor are closely related to the Belt and Road Initiative, and therefore require closer cooperation and greater progress.”

The connectivity projects of the Initiative, it is hoped, will help align and coordinate the development strategies of the countries along the Belt and Road, tap market potential in the Eurasia region, promote investment and consumption, create demands and job opportunities, enhance people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and mutual learning among the peoples of the relevant countries, and enable them to understand, trust and respect each other and live in harmony, peace and prosperity.

The Arctic Passage

The Arctic has become a new area for the development of the Belt and Road Initiative as the “Silk Road on Ice” (SRI)becomes more feasible.

Earlier this year, the Chinese government released a plan for maritime cooperation under the initiative, envisioning an economic passage between China and Europe via the Arctic Ocean.

In the plan, China pledged to support efforts to improve transportation conditions on the Arctic Ocean and encourage Chinese enterprises to take part in the commercial use of the Arctic route.

Advantages Of Arctic Passage

Compared to traditional routes, passages via the Arctic can be 30 to 50 percent shorter, cutting time, costs and fuel. They have great economic potential for the world, particularly trading powers such as China.

As world’s largest trader, China trades goods worth some 4 trillion U.S. dollars a year, 90 percent of which are transported by sea. Saving even a fraction of the transport costs can mean quite a significant amount.

The Arctic routes will further drive global transport costs down by offering an alternative route to shipping companies, breaking the monopoly of some of the world’s key waterways, such as the Malacca Straits and the Suez Canal.

In addition to saving costs, the Arctic economic passage can help stimulate trade growth, Hu said.

The Arctic routes link China with some of the world’s most developed markets, including America, Canada and oil-rich states in northern Europe. Once the cost-efficient and time-saving routes became mature, they would spur China’s exports of high value-added goods to these developed countries, he added.

At the moment, shipping through the Northeast Passage remains costly and challenging for lack of infrastructure. Maintenance is hard to find and extremely expensive for ships trying to edge through the icy waters.

China is working with countries bordering the Arctic Ocean to build infrastructure, such as harbors, roads, bridges and communication facilities in order to improve connectivity and commercial feasibility of the Arctic route.

Arctic Routes

The Northeast Passage is the most commercially viable of the three main routes that connect the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans via the Arctic. The other two are the Northwest Passage, and the Transpolar Sea Route.

The Northwest Passage goes along the northern Canadian and Alaskan coasts, follows the Russian and Norwegian coasts, and the Transpolar Sea Route crosses the Arctic through the North Pole.

At the moment, the Northeast Passage is the most feasible, allowing ships to pass for some 4 months. The passage, already in commercial use, is the one that China and Russia have vowed to jointly develop.

The Northwest Passage is much more challenging with thick ice and complex straits. It still takes time for the passage to be feasible for commercial use. China has published a guide with nautical charts and descriptions of ice conditions on the passage.

The Transpolar Sea Route, which crosses the North Pole, is theoretically the shortest route linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. However, passing through the coldest part of the Arctic, the route will not become feasible until the Arctic become ice free.

Scientists have made varied forecasts as to when the Arctic will be ice free. Most predictions point to a period between 2030 and 2050.

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