By Abderrahman Ismaili Alaoui
By Abderrahman Ismaili Alaoui
Morocco World News
Zagora, Morocco, April 19, 2012
Official discussions between the governments of Morocco and the United States on trade and investment relations have been deepening since the establishment in 1995 of a bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The TIFA has met annually to discuss economic issues of common concern. Gradually, the idea of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries began to take shape. On April 23, 2002, King Mohammed VI and President George W. Bush announced at a meeting in Washington their intention to pursue a free trade agreement between their two countries.
In outlining the opportunities for enhanced trade and investment between the U.S. and Morocco, it is important to underline the respective political and economic interests of each party in the negotiations. This helps to identify what each side seeks to gain and what each may be willing to cede as part of the negotiating process for a free trade agreement.
At the political level, the FTA with Morocco is viewed by the US administration as a tool to support a moderate Muslim state in the region. By contributing to increased development and prosperity in Morocco, the FTA is intended to contribute to the stability of the region and send a concrete signal to the other countries in the Middle East about the benefits of closer economic and political ties with the United States. The FTA is also a mechanism for advancing the overall U.S.-Moroccan relationship. As Morocco is one of the strongest U.S. allies in the war on terrorism in the Middle East, the FTA is intended as a reward for its support, as well as sends a signal to the rest of the Arab world that the United States wants closer ties, at a time many voices in the Arab and Muslim world are calling for boycotts against the United States (Office of the United States trade Representative, 2003).
On the other hand, the FTA with the United States is viewed by Morocco as a means to maintain or even deepen its friendship with the U.S. The U.S., in turn, values the role of the Kingdom in the world as a moderate, tolerant Arab country. Moreover, US administration values Morocco’s constitutional monarchy, supports its roles in the Arab community and in the Middle East, and benefits from holding on to Morocco as a solid ally and co-combatant in the fight against terrorism.
There is a strong concern that the United States is losing market share in Morocco because of the EU’s favorable tariff treatment of European exports into Morocco. The U.S. would like to gain an equal foothold relative to the EU in the Moroccan market for U.S. agricultural and non-agricultural exports. The U.S. also sees increasing investment and export opportunities in key service industries such as finance, energy generation, construction, tourism, education, and retail (CRS Report for Congress, 2005). This FTA is also an integral part of US Administration’s strategy to create a Middle East Free Trade Area by 2013.
Morocco’s economic interests are more complex. The Kingdom seeks to expand markets for its goods and, thereby, diversify beyond its traditional trade links to Europe. It has pursued multi- or bilateral free or preferential trade arrangements not only with the EU, but also with other partners in Europe and around the Mediterranean (MFAC website). Although Moroccans recognize that the EU will bring important benefits, namely increased access to European technology and commercial know-how, they also seek to balance EU influence in Morocco with that of other global commercial leaders such as the U.S. In addition to technology and commercial know-how, Morocco has a keen interest in negotiating access to the U.S. market for its agricultural exports because of their restricted access into the European market (Morocco-US FTA website).
It is worth mentioning that the FTA between Morocco and the US was signed on March 2004 and came into force on January 1, 2006.
Abderrahman Ismaili Alaoui is a teacher of English in Zagora, Morocco. He holds a Master’s in communication studies from the University of Cadi Ayyad in Marrakech, Morocco. He is a contributor to Morocco World News.
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