BBC, London, 23 July 2004
A free trade agreement between Morocco and the United States has come into immediate effect.
The US House of Representatives gave its final approval on Thursday. It is the first trade agreement the US has signed with an African country.
Last month Morocco was designated a major non-Nato US ally by President Bush, in recognition of the country’s support in the US-led war on terror.
US farmers are expected to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the deal.
"This free trade agreement... signals our commitment to deepening America’s relationship with the Middle East and North Africa," US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said in a statement.
The deal eliminates more than 95% of tariffs on consumer products and industrial goods, other tariffs will end in nine years.
Last week Morocco hosted a major Nato military exercise involving naval and air forces from 10 countries; Morocco was the only non-Nato member taking part.
Morocco has increased its co-operation in fighting terrorism with Spain following the Madrid bomb attacks that killed 191 people.
Fourteen of the 18 people provisionally charged in connection with attacks on trains were Moroccans.
The Moroccan authorities have arrested about 2,000 people in cases linked to terrorism since it was hit by a suicide attack in Casablanca last May.
About 45 people, 12 of them bombers, were killed.
However, human rights groups have said that the anti-terror measures have eroded human rights and that suspected Islamists have been tortured by security agents.
[News clips and comments from the US]
Reuters, July 22, 2004
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval Thursday to a new free trade agreement with Morocco and handed the Bush administration its second election-year trade victory in two weeks.
The House voted 323-99 to pass the first free U.S. trade pact with a nation in Africa and the second with a country in the Arab world. The Senate voted 85-13 Wednesday to approve the deal, which the White House hopes will become a model for trade pacts with other countries in the broader Middle East.
"This is an important strategic agreement ... (that) cements the economic relationship between our two countries," said Rep. Phil Crane, an Illinois Republican. "This FTA (free trade agreement) will eliminate trade barriers, lower tariffs and provide increased market access for U.S. companies."
Morocco’s biggest trading partners are in Europe. In 2003, the North African kingdom was only the 69th largest market for U.S. exports and the 82nd largest supplier of imports to the U.S. market.
Two-way trade is less than $1 billion annually, but the U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that could double under the pact.
U.S. farmers are expected to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Moroccan agreement.
The American Farm Bureau Federation expects the pact to generate $260 million in new U.S. wheat, animal feed, beef, poultry and other farm exports by 2015.
A host of business groups have endorsed the agreement, which will eliminate duties on more than 95 percent of two-way consumer and industrial trade the first day it takes effect.
The pact also beefs up anti-piracy protections for U.S. movies, music and other forms of intellectual property.
Morocco hopes the deal will spur economic growth by establishing it as a gateway for U.S. trade with the Middle East and encouraging more investment in the country.
The United States already has a free trade pact with Jordan and recently finished negotiations on one with Bahrain. The Bush administration wants a regional free trade pact covering the Middle East and North Africa by 2013.
Last week, the House and the Senate overwhelmingly approved a free trade pact with Australia. The strong votes confounded expectations the White House would have difficulty winning approval of trade pacts in an election year when many voters have been worried about U.S. jobs moving overseas.
July 23, 2004
By U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick
"Today’s vote of 85 to 13 by the Senate to approve a U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement expands our economic relationship with one of America’s oldest friends.
"This agreement is a boon for America’s manufacturers and farmers. On the first day that the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement goes into effect, 95 percent of the two-way trade in industrial and consumer products will be without tariffs. U.S. farmers will also find additional opportunities, especially in grains and meat products. And Morocco has made broad commitments to open its service sector, creating new opportunities for U.S. banking, insurance, telecommunications, and technology companies.
"I would especially like to thank Senators Grassley and Baucus for their leadership. Their efforts to shepherd this agreement through the Senate was invaluable.
"This free trade agreement with Morocco, our first with an African country and our second with an Arab country, signals our commitment to deepening America’s relationship with the Middle East and North Africa. It is another major step forward in implementing President Bush’s plan for a Middle East Free Trade Area, building on our existing agreements with Israel, Jordan. And we look forward to entering into an FTA with Bahrain in the near future.
"Free trade is on offense, and the cause of open markets is now advancing on all fronts. In the last twelve months, Congress has approved four new free trade agreements, all with large bipartisan majorities. Working together with Congress, the Administration is putting Trade Promotion Authority to good use and America is at the forefront of the global move toward expanded trade.
"We have completed agreements with twelve countries, and are negotiating with ten others. These new and pending FTA partners, taken together, would constitute America’s third largest export market and the sixth largest economy in the world. America also has led efforts to advance the Doha Development Agenda of the WTO this year. To open new markets for America’s workers and farmers, this Administration will be persistent in every negotiation, relentless in enforcing every agreement, and active in seeking out new opportunities in every region of the world."
This Administration has completed free trade agreements with Chile, Jordan, Singapore, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Australia, Morocco, the Dominican Republic, and Bahrain.
The United States is currently negotiating free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Thailand and with the five nations of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) - Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia.
In addition to negotiating FTAs, the United States will continue to aggressively press for global free markets through the World Trade Organization and for hemispheric openness, through the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas.
Business Roundtable Commends Senate and House for Approval of Morocco Free Trade Agreement
Levels Trade Playing Field for U.S. Business, Workers and Farmers
Business Roundtable Press Release
23 July 2004
WASHINGTON, July 23 /PRNewswire/ — Harold McGraw III, Chairman, President and CEO, The McGraw Hill Companies and Chairman of Business Roundtable’s International Trade and Investment Task Force praised the Senate and House of Representatives for the bipartisan approval of the U.S.-Morocco free trade agreement (FTA).
"Morocco is one of the few countries with which the United States enjoys a positive trade balance. In the past ten years, U.S. exports to Morocco exceeded imports from Morocco by an average of $169 million per year, for a total of $1.86 billion. The FTA will further open this market enabling American business to build on this foundation and compete on a level playing field with the European Union (EU), which already enjoys the benefits of free trade with Morocco.
"This FTA also represents the best market access package of any U.S. FTA with a developing country. It grants more than 95% of bilateral trade in consumer and industrial products immediate duty-free access to Morocco. More trade means more economic and job growth in America.
"Free trade with Middle Eastern nations such as Morocco is also strategically critical to the U.S. in the war against terror. The development of an economically sound and stable region benefits global trade and economic growth.
"The Roundtable, representing companies with a combined workforce of 10 million employees in the United States and $4 trillion in annual revenues, remains committed to further U.S. free trade agreements. The bipartisan support for FTAs demonstrates the willingness to continue to make trade liberalization and economic growth a priority."
National Corn Growers Association Press Release
Friday July 23, 2004
WASHINGTON, July 23 /PRNewswire/ — The National Corn Growers Association applauds Congress for passing by overwhelming margins the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA) this week.
"This forward-looking agreement is balanced and represents a good market opportunity for corn growers and U.S. Agriculture overall," noted National Corn Growers Association President Dee Vaughan. "The vote illustrates Congress’ commitment to being a strong force on behalf of trade in the international marketplace."
The legislation passed the Senate July 21 by a vote of 85 to 13; the House followed with its approval July 22 with a vote of 323 to 99. "Chairmen (Charles) Grassley and (Bill) Thomas should be applauded for their hard work and quick action this week," said Vaughan.
"The National Corn Growers Association would also like to thank President Bush, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and Agriculture Ambassador Allen Johnson for a job well done. This agreement would not have been possible if not for their tireless efforts and the hard work of the U.S. negotiating team. They continue to show their strong support and commitment to U.S. agriculture," said Vaughan.
The Morocco FTA cuts the tariff on U.S. corn initially in half (to 17.5 percent for lower value per ton shipments based on its reference price system), and then proceeds to zero by year six based on linear reductions.
"The Morocco FTA provides U.S. exports a significant advantage in the Moroccan market," said Doug Boisen, chair of NCGA’s Joint Trade Policy A-Team. Morocco has a strong demand for U.S. feed grains and driving Morocco’s feed grain demand is poultry production, the fastest growing meat production sector in Morocco. The duty-free corn would save the Moroccan poultry and livestock industries approximately $30 million per year based on current imports and applied duties.
Also this week, NCGA, along with 27 other commodity organizations, sent a letter to the Senate and House of Representatives, supporting the Morocco FTA, urging passage of the pact.
The letter stated the agreement could lead to $260 million in increased sales per year by 2015, while Morocco agricultural sales to the U.S. would increase by $25 million. The agreement will also help maintain U.S. agriculture’s competitiveness in the market as well as help to streamline and expedite U.S. sales.
"Corn growers support an aggressive trade agenda and we applaud Congress for the vote this week. Together, we can expand market opportunities that will help the U.S. corn industry remain competitive and profitable in the years to come," concluded Vaughan.
To view the letter in its entirety, please visit the letters section at the NCGA web site, http://www.ncga.com.