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US-Morocco

In early 2003, the Bush administration — on the verge of unleashing its war against Iraq — proposed a bilateral free trade agreement to the kingdom of Morocco. Morocco accepted. Talks formally start in early 2003 and ended about a year later. In July 2004, the text was approved by the US Congress. In January 2005, it was similarly approved by the Moroccan parliament. Despite the US and Moroccan governments having opposing views on whether or not the treaty shall apply in Western Sahara, it came into force on 1 January 2006.

The US-Morocco FTA has been a controversial and important one for several reasons.

First, despite its name, the whole initiative has little to do with trade. The main objective of the US was and is a political one: to pull a friendly North African kingdom deeper into its sphere of influence (read: control) and in so doing, create a wedge vis-a-vis the Arab world. The Morocco deal was proudly advertised by Washington as its first step towards a full-blown Middle East Free Trade Agreement. Any such regional deal would clearly pull together the major strands of US policy in the Middle East: to "democratise" governance of Arab countries, open them up to US penetration and eventually neutralise all hostility toward the state of Israel. Morocco is now a willing partner in this process.

Second, the projected social and economic implications of the deal for Morocco were downright dim. A number of studies showed that the impact of the FTA on Morocco would be marginal at best and detrimental — increasing poverty — at worst. A whole range of sensitive issues were on the table: the opening of Morocco’s market to US wheat, rules of origin in the US on Morocco’s textile-related exports, drug prices and so on. While the Moroccan negotiators did secure some temporary safety nets on the wheat and rules of origin threats, the underlying message was that without a significant influx of additional US foreign assistance (aid money), the kingdom would not be able to do good on its new commitments without major social setbacks. In sum, the cost:benefit ratio was way out of kilter.

Third, there was important opposition to the negotiations at home. Various social, political, artistic, farming, scientific and even industrial groups mobilised against a range of problems that the proposed FTA threw open. One was on access to medicines, jeopardised by the treaty’s intellectual property rules. Another was on the loss of cultural pluralism, the impending transfer of control over Moroccan media and cultural sectors to Walt Disney, Voice of America and CNN. Another more general problem was the administration’s unending impermeability to calls for consultation, debate, questioning, listening and participation — whether it came from the streets (protests by AIDS activists and film producers were violently repressed), the Parliament (opposition parties had to organise their own hearings on the draft treaty with NGOs) or the corporate sector (national pharameutical manufacturers were upset that they were excluded from the process). The only people happy about the whole thing, in Morocco, seemed to be the select few in the negotiating team.

After two years under the FTA, the US trade balance with Morocco had skyrocketed from US$85 million in 2005 to nearly $735 million in 2007. More recently, the secretary-general of Morocco’s ministry for industry trade and new technologies said that the deal had not met expectations and that Moroccan exports to the US remained weak, partly because the US had not facilitated entry for some agricultural products..

last update: May 2012


Morocco: New US-Morocco agreements seen as boost to trade relations
The United States and the Kingdom of Morocco have signed new agreements that the top U.S. trade official says will stimulate significant additional commercial activity between the two countries and within the broader Middle East-North Africa region.
Lobbying for the US-Morocco FTA and how it benefits US corporations
Videos from Morocco TVArchive, uploaded in 2008
Lessons from Morocco
Bilateral trade accords are driven by politics more than economics, and the US-Morocco free trade agreement, or FTA, is no exception.
Morocco: Trade & liberalisation
USAID has launched the Morocco New Business Opportunities (NBO) project. NBO is a four-year, $9m programme to help Moroccan firms take advantage of new opportunities for entry or expansion in the US market emerging from the Morocco-US FTA.
UN committee strongly urges Morocco to evaluate impact of the US-Morocco FTA
Morocco came under review last month by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. During this process, the UN Committee raised concerns about the effects of the United States-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on access to affordable medicines and the enjoyment of the right to health in the country.
Morocco textile industry adapting to free trade
Morocco hopes to create as many textile industry jobs as it loses over a two-year period, the kingdom’s trade minister said.
US sorghum sold to Morocco for the first time in six years
US sorghum has been sold to Morocco for the first time in six years, a testament that the US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is working.
FTA to diversify Morocco’s foreign partnerships and markets
"The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States opens the Moroccan economy towards a new world. It is an opportunity for us to diversify our partnerships, our markets and strengthen our means of competition in an increasingly global economy," said Mohamed Benayad, secretary general of the National Council for Foreign Trade (CNCE).
Interview with Mohamed Benayad: «We do not sign free trade agreements with enemy states»
Interview with Mohamed Benayad, Secretary General of the National Council for Foreign Trade, claims to be an advocate of the free trade agreement between Morocco and the United States.
Morocco-US FTA to promote investment in Kingdom, trade advisor
Increasing trade exchanges and promoting US investments in Morocco are the main objectives of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed between Morocco and the USA, affirmed trade Advisor at Moroccan embassy in Washington, Mourad El Ayachi.