Morocco's largest bank, the Banque Marocaine du Commerce Exterieur (BMCE), opened its first Chinese branch in Beijing on Monday.
Othman Benjelloun, chief executive officer (CEO) of the bank, said the branch had been set up in response to Chinese President Jiang Zemin's call for more economic co-operation between China and Morocco.
Jiang met the CEO when he visited the North African country last Autumn.
Benjelloun said he wanted to encourage Chinese companies to invest in Morocco and to enhance relations between Chinese financial institutions and BMCE via the new branch.
Morocco could serve as a springboard for Chinese businesses to enter Europe, Africa and the Middle East, he said.
He also hoped China would set up joint ventures with Moroccan companies and their European partners in information technology, agriculture, fishing, infrastructure, mining and transportation.
Setting up the new office was also in line with Morocco's need to diversify its foreign trade and foreign investment, Benjelloun added.
He said Morocco could not possibly ignore such a vast and diverse economy as China's.
The Beijing branch is the bank's 13th overseas office.
"The office will collect information about the Chinese economy, culture and society and help seek business opportunities in the country on behalf of Moroccan businesses," said Benjelloun.
China and Morocco have a long history of friendship. Morocco is one of the first countries that recognized the People's Republic of China.
It is one of China's major trade partners in Africa.
Bilateral trade more than doubled from 1995 to US$309 million last year, according to statistics from the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation.
China's main sales to Morocco are tea and chemical industrial products, and its main imports fertilizer and the mineral cobalt.
China's major investment in Morocco was in jointly funded fishing companies, said Benjelloun.
China also had about 80 fishing boats in Morocco, which sold seafood to Japan and Europe, he said.
Trade experts said trade and investment between China and African countries were still conservative, and China only made up about 2.81 percent of Africa's foreign trade in 1998.
Trade between China and Africa accounted for about 1.8 percent of China's total foreign trade last year.
(China Daily 10/11/2000)