This week saw the grand opening of Renault's massive Tangier factory, inaugurated by King Mohammed VI of Morocco. His Majesty went on to cut ribbons on other Tangier infrastructure projects, including the new Tanger-Med petroleum port. Tangier, Boom Town. Photo courtesy Renault.
As Time Magazine's "Global Spin" blogger Bruce Crumley writes, the factory presents a classic clash of globalization and politics – French politics:
Response to the inauguration of the $1.3 billion, 300-hectare plant in the Tangiers suburb Meloussa ranged from subdued grumbling to piercing indignation—particularly from politicians on both sides of the political divide facing presidential and legislative elections this spring. With unemployment nearing 10% as the French economy grinds down toward recession, proposals on job creation, re-industrialization, luring off-shored companies back home, and even patriotism-rousing “Buy French” campaigns have crowded to the top the list of positions staked out by leading politicians on the left and right alike.
In export-driven Morocco, at Free Zone Tangier and elsewhere, the vicissitudes of the world economy – especially the European economy – are always a concern. Renault has built its factory not for the Moroccan market, but to export Lodgy – yes, the marketing department tells us that it is "redolent of the English word 'lodge'" – MPVs to developing markets. An unfortunate byproduct may be low-priced competition for its France-based manufacture of Renault's existing MPV, the Scenic.
Just as Renault executives attempt to reassure nervous French political candidates that this latest offshore factory is good for French jobs too, so too do US companies of their cross-border maquiladora factories in Mexico.
But as a recent NPR report on American near-foreign factories shows, these Mexican sites can provide a much-needed "rapid response manufacturing" option to American firms, something that truly delocalized Western industries in faraway China cannot do. And in the case of the Mexico-Texas Rio Grande border, the benefits have often spilled back over the border, spurring investment on the American side of the river.
It might be a bit more difficult to do that across the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean, but the parallel inauguration of a dedicated import-export terminal at Tanger-Med, which will import French and other made components and export the finished product, shows that the trade is two-way – the best kind possible.