Morocco signs major deal for Boeing production in Tangier
Morocco signed an agreement with Boeing on Tuesday to build a new hub for the US aerospace giant that officials hope will create thousands of skilled jobs.
King Mohammed VI oversaw the signing of a memorandum of understanding in the northern port city of Tangiers to establish an industrial zone where up to 120 Boeing suppliers and sub-contractors could operate.
"This is a very important strategic project as we move into a new aeronautical era in Morocco," Industry Minister Moulay Hafi Elalamy told AFP.
Morocco has unveiled several large-scale industrial projects in recent years, with the Tangiers region among the fastest growing provinces in the country.
French carmaker Renault in April signed deals to invest more than $1bn and create 50,000 jobs in the North African country.
Morocco was badly affected by the financial crisis in Europe, its top trade partner, and has struggled to contain a ballooning public deficit.
The authorities have strenuously promoted the country as a bridge between Africa and the West, in a bid to encourage foreign investment and trade.
"The Moroccan aeronautical industry has seen important growth in recent years," said Elalamy. "The sector has grown six-fold in just 10 years and there are now 121 firms."
Some of the largest manufacturers are already present in the country, contributing to a sector that employs about 10,000 people and has a turnover of $1bn per year.
Elalamy said the Boeing industrial zone could create up to 8,700 jobs.
Morocco's gateway linking Europe, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, Tangiers has experienced unprecedented development in recent years, including a new airport and deep-water port.
Boeing has recently made deals in other Middle Eastern countries as well. Last week, the US unblocked a prohibition to sell planes to Iran to ease growing complaints from Tehran over the implementation of last year's historic sanctions deal.
US planemaker Boeing said it obtained a US government licence to complete a sale of planes to IranAir, moving closer to the first such deal since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Boeing said it remained in talks with IranAir to finalise the sale after the two sides reached a preliminary agreement in June. The deal is valued at as much as $25bn.
The move signals the unfreezing of one of the most high-profile deals between Iran and foreign companies since last year's nuclear agreement.
Earlier this year, Airbus and its US rival Boeing each signed deals to supply over 100 jets to flag carrier IranAir to modernise and expand the country's elderly fleet, held together by smuggled or improvised parts after years of sanctions, Reuters reported.