By Loubna Flah
By Loubna Flah
Morocco World News
Casablanca, September 18, 2012
The depth of Moroccan- American relations is anchored in history. It dates back to the 18th century when Morocco was the first country to recognize officially the independence of the United States before it became a super power.
Even in the years of isolationism chaperoned by Republicans and despite the geographical remoteness, the US was keen on signing a Free Trade Agreement with Morocco on June 15, 2004.
The Free Trade Agreement was an opportunity for the US to kill two birds with one stone. On one hand, it set the path for closer diplomatic relations with an ally located at the center of the European circle of influence both at the political and the economic levels.
On the other hand the FTA allowed the US to create new markets for its products through the expansion of US foreign trade. Thus, the United States remains Morocco’s 6th largest trading partner while Morocco remains the US 55th largest export market for US exports.
Though the agreement offers Morocco access to US markets with broad and diverse trading opportunities, it is not perceived by many Moroccans as a profitable deal for Morocco. In fact, the reduction of customs tariffs to American agricultural products is a real threat to Moroccan agriculture already afflicted by drought cycles and insufficient mechanization.
As the Arab Spring tide continued to sweep over North African countries with totally unpredictable outcomes, especially in terms of the region’s geopolitics, Morocco emerged as a highly strategic ally for the US.
Similarly to its neighbors, Morocco has experienced sporadic protests spearheaded by young activists who claimed more democracy, reduction of royal prerogatives and abolition of rentier economy and corruption.
Yet the way the Moroccan regime handled the uprisings made difference. As soon as voices of dissent got louder, the Moroccan Monarch addressed the nation announcing drastic constitutional reforms and early elections that has propelled, a few months later, a popular Islamist and moderate party to power.
Promoted as a “model of democracy” the in the midst of the Arab spring turmoil, Morocco became US major ally in North Africa, especially as that radical Islamist movements made of Mali their stronghold and a territory to mastermind anti-US Terrorist attacks. The political unrest, low living standards and food crisis in Mali, boosted considerably Al Qaeda recruiting capacity among deprived Malians.
Al Qaead in Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) further strengthened its presence in the region through the collusion of the Polisario leadership, whose elements were involved in kidnapping of Westerners and drug trafficking.
The Global edition of the New York Times has devoted last Saturday an article to the development of US-Moroccan diplomatic relations. The New York Times reporter Antonin Tisseron, a security specialist at the Thomas Moore Institute says Morocco has become an “essential partner” for the United States.
“In the context of the assassination of the U.S. ambassador in Libya, the uncertainties about Tunisia and Egypt, and the specter of the ‘Afghanization’ of northern Mali “ “The kingdom appears to be an important, if not essential partner,” he says
The murder of the US ambassador to Libya has given the US another reason to consolidate bilateral relations with Morocco on different levels, including cooperation on security.
Moroccan foreign minister, Saad Dine el Otmani said, last Thursday during his diplomatic visit to Washington, that the strategic dialogue between Morocco and the United States is an opportunity to strengthen bilateral consultations in order to reach concerted positions on a number of regional and international issues of common interest.
In this critical juncture, both countries should be able to take equal advantages of this rapprochement in diplomatic relations. The Arab Spring taught the world that diplomatic partners should consider the interests of their own people in the first place.