New York- The history between Morocco and the United States goes farther back than this decade, or even this century. Morocco was the first nation to recognize the United States as an independent country in 1777. From then on, Morocco maintained relations with the United States as one of their oldest and closest allies in the Middle East and North Africa.
As King Mohammed VI prepares to meet with President Obama for the first time, in Washington, D.C. this fall, we are reminded of the mutually beneficial and strategic relations that make up the Morocco-U.S. diplomatic relationship.
Security in the MENA Region
With the imminent threat of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM] in a regional and global sense, Morocco and the U.S. have teamed up to proactively combat terrorism. Morocco has affirmed its zero-tolerance policy toward terrorism, and AQIM and their affiliates specifically, by launching a bi-lateral counter-terrorism campaign with the U.S. which includes assistance with training programs for Moroccan authorities, counter-terrorism technology and resources. The U.S. has openly lauded Morocco for its comprehensive approach to counter-terrorism, as a result of Morocco’s multi-faceted strategy and reforms targeted at domestic and transnational peace strategizing.
Shortly after ascending to the throne, King Mohammed VI solidified relations with the United States by engaging in a free trade agreement [FTA], which went into effect in 2006. The Morocco-US FTA provides U.S. exporters with unprecedented access to the Moroccan market by eliminating tariffs on the vast majority of all traded goods.
According to the Moroccan embassy in the U.S. the FTA “aims to accelerate and reinforce Morocco’s economic reform process by allowing greater competition and international partnerships in key sectors such as insurance and banking. Its objective is also to liberalize the Moroccan textile and agricultural tariff structures.” Agreements such as these open Morocco’s economy to greater diversity, and, as a result, hastier modernization.
Morocco as a Model for Regional Reform
Amidst the harsh reality of transitioning from authoritarian regimes to democratic ones in North Africa, Morocco has emerged as a beacon of peace in the midst of regional chaos. Attempting to avoid the impunity and civil resistance that has been displayed in countries like Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt, the Moroccan government passed a package of reforms, including a complete restructuring of the Constitution in 2011.
As the U.S. generally uses its alliances to promote democratic ideals abroad, Morocco’s initiative and motivation reform to build an open, free, and fair society is, in the eyes of the United States, reason enough for Morocco to act as a model of change for its neighbors.
Today, both countries are conducting a joint effort to combat terrorism, consistently cooperate on global issues, and share economic ambitions—namely to develop a comprehensive bilateral partnership unmatched by any in the region.
Despite the precarious situation in the Sahara, and other regional issues in the Maghreb, the U.S. certainly recognizes Morocco’s vital role in the region as the gateway to both the African continent and the Maghreb. There is no doubt, therefore, that the meeting between Obama and Mohammed VI will mark a new chapter in Morocco-U.S. relations.
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