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FTA to diversify Morocco’s foreign partnerships and markets

Morocco Times

FTA to diversify Morocco’s foreign partnerships and markets

By Morad Aziz | Morocco Times

11 January 2006

"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).

In an interview published Tuesday in the Moroccan daily newspaper Libération, Benayad affirmed that the agreement signed with the US "differs from the Partnership Agreement with the European Union and obliges us to be more courageous."

He added that this FTA with the US is “general”, covering all fields ranging from agriculture, and industry, to services and goods. “This characteristic will lead Morocco "to advance more quickly in the reforms which are already underway."

Noting that there is not only Europe and that the world opens more and more, the CNCE’s official stressed that if Morocco does not seize this opportunity to diversify its markets and its capabilities instead of limiting itself to the European market, "we are likely to be increasingly marginalised," he said.

He explained that the agreement with the EU primarily concerns the non-agricultural products : industrial and energy products which represent at a maximum 25% of the GDP.

Asked about the dangers of a US dumping on the Moroccan market in the field of agricultural products and a control in the sector of insurance services and banks, Benayad said that this concern "is legitimate", but limited his answer to the problems of the insurance sector.

"When one compares the American insurance companies and our companies, there is no possible comparison," he pointed out, adding that : "The size of the Moroccan market is not important enough to justify a massive investment of the American companies ... However, some restraints were elaborated as part of the agreement."

As far as exports are concerned, he raised the existence of a problem of offers and that opportunities can become important.

"It is we who need to invest and try in this great economy to exploit all the available opportunities that meet our capacities of production," he highlighted.

The CNCE’s official said that the Americans have developed programmes, through the USAID, to assist Moroccan companies which want to know about the American market.

The Americans, as says the Chinese proverb, do not give fish, they help businessmen to fish and sell.

“Now, it depends on us to benefit from this agreement,” he underlined. For him, the American logic "is clear : we do business, we do not have to help you."

"Personally, I prefer this logic, because there will be no development if it does not come from within, " concluded the secretary general of the CNCE.

Earlier, Salah Eddine Mezouar, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Economy Upgrading, said the free trade agreement concluded between Morocco and the US is a win-win deal, but for which Morocco should be well equipped.

The FTA, which came into effect on January 1, was signed on June 15, 2004, after seven rounds of bilateral negotiations that lasted 13 months.

Under the terms of the pact, tariffs on 95% of all bilateral trade between the United States and Morocco will be eliminated. The remaining tariffs, mainly on agricultural products from both countries, will be eliminated within the next nine years.

The agreement also includes stringent measures to protect intellectual property and the environment.

The White House said "Morocco is a close friend and ally of the United States, and this FTA sends a powerful signal that the United States is firmly committed to supporting tolerant and open Muslim societies.”