Moroccan Ambassador meets with businesses to discuss US-Morocco FTA

23 February 2005

Moroccan-American Trade & Investment Council Press Release

Moroccan Ambassador Meets with Los Angeles Businesses to Discuss Opportunities Under New U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement

Los Angeles Latest Stop of Nationwide Tour to Promote Agreement

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 23 /PRNewswire/ — Ambassador Aziz Mekouar of Morocco met today with Los Angeles executives representing major companies in business — particularly the entertainment industry — to discuss opportunities resulting from the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement, including increased trade and investment, as well as job development and closer ties between Los Angeles and Morocco. The FTA, approved by both sides, will go into effect in the coming weeks.

The luncheon was hosted by the Moroccan-American Trade & Investment Council (MATIC), a U.S.-based trade association.

"The Free Trade Agreement presents exciting opportunities for both the United States and Morocco; the American film industry has long taken advantage of the beautiful and varied scenery in Morocco," said Ambassador Mekouar. "I look forward to forging a closer relationship between this world-class city and Morocco’s business centers; today’s meetings are a critical step to that end."

At the Fourth Annual Marrakech International Film Festival in December 2004, Oliver Stone had high praise for the country sometimes called the Hollywood of Africa, saying, "Without Morocco, there would be no film. It is the place where the East meets the West." In recent years, Ridley Scott, Oliver Stone and Sean Connery have praised Morocco as a backdrop for making films. Dozens of movies have been inspired by Morocco, including the classic Casablanca.

For U.S. businesses, the Free Trade Agreement — deemed the "best market access package of any U.S. free trade agreement with a developing country to date" by the Office of the United States Trade Representative — eliminates tariffs on 95 percent of all bilateral trade between the United States and Morocco, and includes stringent protections for intellectual property and the environment. Because of Morocco’s agreement with the European Union, tariff reductions will apply to U.S. goods produced in Morocco and sold in Europe.

The Free Trade Agreement marked the latest illustration of the historic partnership between Morocco and the United States that has existed for more than 217 years; Morocco was the first country to formally recognize the fledgling United States in 1777. Today, Morocco is an important ally on the War on Terror and was just elevated to the coveted major non-NATO ally status.

Ambassador Mekouar’s stop in Los Angeles is part of an aggressive effort to inform U.S. businesses about the FTA, encourage investment and increase trade. The tour, stopping in more than 10 U.S. cities in the coming months, is sponsored and organized by MATIC.

MATIC, which has charter members that include companies, trade associations and firms from both Morocco and the United States, will be sponsoring and organizing numerous activities across the United States during the coming year to foster trans-Atlantic trade. Several major United States firms, including CMS Energy, Dell, Delphi, Oracle and Pfizer, have made significant investments in Morocco.

"Moroccan-U.S. trade is poised for a significant boost with this agreement," said Ted Smith, an economist who brings more than 30 years of international business experience to his role as MATIC’s managing director. "Bilateral trade in goods and services exceeded more than $1 billion in 2003, and there are few obstacles to double-digit growth every year this decade."

In 2003, California ranked fifth in the country in total growth in export sales to the North African nation. When the agreement becomes active in March, Los Angeles will be able to export most goods tariff free.

Primary U.S. exports to Morocco include aircraft, cereals and machinery, while Morocco ships foodstuffs, processed goods and textiles to the U.S. market. Morocco is also a popular destination for U.S. filmmakers who are attracted by its great natural beauty, varied terrain and established movie- making support services. Long-admired for its spectacular tourism venues, competitive textile industry, skilled workforce and access to European, African and Middle Eastern markets, Morocco is a highly advantageous site for American companies.

MATIC’s U.S. office is located at 1101 Vermont Ave. NW, in Washington, D.C. Please visit MATIC’s Web site for more information: http://www.moroccanamericantrade.com.

Additional information is also located on the U.S. Morocco Free Trade Agreement Web site at http://www.moroccousafta.com.

Source: Moroccan-American Trade & Investment Council

source: MATIC