By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 10/19/2005 | 2:42 pm
Shaun Donnelly, the US Assistant Trade Representative for Europe and the Mediterranean at the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), has said the conclusion and entry into force of the FTA between Morocco and the US will help attract more American firms to invest in and trade with Morocco.
The US Assistant Trade Representative told Morocco Times that the FTA will draw attention to Morocco as an exciting new opportunity and one offering state-of-the-art guarantees to traders and to investors.
He stressed that the agreement will cause US importers to pay more attention to Moroccan goods and services and should help promote these activities.
“We here at USTR have already - in advance of the entry into force - seen a large number of inquiries from US firms interested in trade with Morocco,” Shaun Donnelly told Morocco Times, in an online discussion on FTA issues with journalists from the MENA region, held on Tuesday.
He cited Jordan as an example of win-win trade agreement, while expecting the same results for Morocco.
“I also note that our experience with the Jordan agreement has shown that a US FTA does attract greater interest and promote more trade and investment, and we anticipate similar results for Morocco,” he said.
Answering a question whether the EU-Morocco trade agreement will conflict with that of Morocco and the US, Donnelly told Morocco Times that the United States supports Morocco's economic integration and cooperation with Europe, and sees it as a complement not as a competitor.
“We think that our FTA provides a complement to – not a competitor with – Morocco's trade relationship with the EU. Both of these agreements - our FTA and their association agreement with the EU - give Moroccan companies, producers and workers greater opportunities to sell their goods and services and more choices for competition in supply of goods and services. And we think this is good for Morocco,” he stressed.
The United States and Morocco signed, June 15, 2004, a Free Trade Agreement, after completing the 7th round negotiations held in February in Washington. The US-Morocco FTA will immediately eliminate tariffs on 95 % of bilateral trade in consumer and industrial products, with all remaining tariffs to be eliminated within nine years. It also significantly reduces barriers to US agricultural products and services.
US firms will be able to create stock companies in Morocco that will not be ruled by Moroccan law, under a draft bill adopted on Monday during the Ministers' Council chaired by King Mohammed VI.
The bill also stipulates that American firms will be allowed to subscribe to maritime and aviation insurances from their main offices without being accredited in Morocco.
The United States' annual exports to Morocco reach US $ 475 million in products including aircraft, corn and machinery. The elimination of Morocco's industrial tariffs, averaging 20%, will allow the US to increase its annual exports to the country. Morocco, instead, is looking to increase its farm and apparel exports to the US (Morocco faces average tariffs of only 4% on exports to the US).
President Bush and King Mohammed VI announced their decision to pursue a bilateral FTA on April 23, 2002. In notifying Congress of the president's intention to begin formal negotiations, the US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick linked the FTA to broader development objectives.
These include supporting the significant economic and political reforms underway in Morocco, enhancing Morocco's efforts to expand trade and attract new investment, and promote sustainable development.
Morocco has the oldest diplomatic relationship with the US, going back to more than 200 years ago. Its partnership with the US was strongly reinforced after September 11, 2001.
Morocco has become the second Arab country after Jordan to sign a FTA with the US. The US has also ongoing negotiations with other Arab countries. President Bush announced last year that Washington would pursue a series of trade agreements as part of its “ambitious efforts to promote democracy in the MENA region.”
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 1/13/2005 | 6:58 pm
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) CEO Paul Applegarth told a press conference, January 13, in Dar America in Casablanca that “Morocco is the only Arab country eligible to apply for the MCC assistance for the 2005 Fiscal year.”
“Morocco was eligible for the first time,” Applegarth said. He added that Morocco was selected in recognition of the government's efforts to fight corruption, reduce poverty, encourage freedom of press, and improve its human rights record."
Morocco is invited to submit a proposal for assistance, which MCC will evaluate, based on its potential to improve economic growth and reduce poverty, the quality of the consultative process that guided the development of the proposal, and the country's commitment to continued policy improvement.
No specific amount is yet decided for Morocco's grant. “Morocco could get zero dollars as he could get up to $100 million. All depends on the quality of the proposal Morocco will deliver,” Applegarth told Morocco Times.
82 candidates competed for this account, of which only 16 were selected. These include: Armenia, Benin, Bolivia, Georgia, Ghana, Honduras, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Vanuatu.
The countries eligible for this year's Threshold Program include: Burkina Faso, Guyana, Malawi, Paraguay, Philippines, and Zambia. Threshold countries do not qualify for the Millennium Challenge Account assistance, but have demonstrated a commitment to meeting the eligibility requirements for MCA assistance in the future.
MCC is currently assessing 14 proposals and concept papers from countries that were eligible in 2004 Fiscal Year.
“The Millennium Challenge Account is about bringing the best of America to our relationship with the world,” said Applegarth. He added that “the countries MCC has selected are being recognized for their hard work in putting into actions policies that will best meet the needs of their people, and we look forward to building partnerships with those countries that have developed a solid plan of action for reducing poverty and fueling economic growth.”
Millennium Challenge Corporation is a US government corporation designed to work with some of the poorest countries in the world. The corporation, announced by George W. Bush in 2002, is based on the principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces sound political, economic, and social policies that promote poverty reduction through economic growth.
The press conference was attended by Thomas T. Riley, US Ambassador to Morocco, Roberto Powers, US Consul General, embassy officials, and journalists from both print and audiovisual media.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 10/20/2005 | 12:59 am
The US Ambassador to Morocco, Thomas T. Riley, held on Wednesday, in his residence in Rabat, an Iftar (Ramadan breakfast) ceremony to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan and to honour young Moroccan leaders who have participated in exchange programmes between the United States and Morocco.
Young Moroccan leaders from the civil society and political parties had the opportunity to debate and exchange ideas about religions, the role of civil society, Morocco's development and major reforms while sharing the Iftar.
Other figures of different faiths attended the Iftar. The US Ambassador said “the aim of the gathering was to exchange ideas on cultural and religious traditions, and encouraging inter-religious and intercultural dialogue.”
Earlier, on Monday, President George Bush hosted his fifth Iftar dinner at the White House. Bush spoke of the spirit and compassion of Islam and thanked the Muslims nations that have joined the coalition in the War on Terror.
Bush, addressing American Muslim leaders as well as members of the diplomatic corps in the meal that breaks the daytime fast during the month of Ramadan, said all Americans share the common hope of a more peaceful world.
“We must stand confidently in the cause of freedom – including the freedom of people everywhere to practice their faith in peace. We must also firmly oppose all who commit evil in God's name. I am grateful to the Muslim nations that have joined our coalition in the War on Terror – including many nations that have been victims of terror themselves.”
The US ambassador to Morocco told the guests that President Bush has encouraged Americans to travel abroad and visit Muslim families to promote greater understandings. Riley added that the United States has added a Qur'an to the White House Library for the first time in its history.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 12/20/2005 | 5:12 pm
Rabat---Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in Rabat Wayne J. Bush said on Monday that Washington encourages both Morocco and Algeria to improve bilateral relations for the stability of the Maghreb region.
Speaking at an international conference held in Rabat on Arab-US relations through the media, Wayne Bush said the US supports a peaceful solution, through the United Nations, to the three-decade war over the disputed-land of the Sahara that opposes Morocco to the Algerian-backed Polisario.
Wayne J. Bush recalled that bilateral relations between Morocco and the US have enjoyed a certain dynamism in the last few years and that the US is highly inspired by Morocco's recent reforms.
He added that the US has reviewed ways to reinforce cooperation with Morocco, especially after the 9/11 and May 16 terrorist attacks.
“Morocco is an ally. Our countries have reinforced cooperation to face our common enemy: terrorism," J. Bush said.
The US official recalled what the US has done to reinforce economic and military cooperation with Morocco after May 16 attacks.
“Following May 16, the US quadrupled its economic assistance to Morocco, doubled bilateral military cooperation, declared Morocco "as being a major non-NATO ally", concluded a Free Trade Agreement which will enter into force in January, and made Morocco eligible for the Millennium challenge Account which aims at fighting poverty through economic growth,” Wayne J. Bush explained.
The US diplomat added that US-Morocco relations were punctuated by a series of high level visits between both countries who have shared values and a common commitment and need to fight terrorism, promote the expansion of democracy and cooperate to address regional conflicts.
He also expressed his country's satisfaction with Morocco's commitment to reforms.
Morocco has made major reforms during the past 3 years including the Family Code, Press Code, Labour Law, Terrorism Law, Political Parties Law, incriminating torture, and the most recent one, the Intellectual and Industrial property Code.
Morocco did not only focus on internal reforms, he said, but also played a leading role and supported reforms in the region by hosting the first Forum for the Future. He added that Morocco followed its commitment in cooperation with the US to implement projects such as the Forum for the Future, and most importantly, the Fund for the Future to support small and media enterprises.
Echoing Wayne J. Bush, Moroccan Minister of Communication and Government Spokesperson Nabil Benabdellah said that the US media should know about the Moroccan experience as a leader of reforms in the region. He added that these reforms were not imposed by any foreign country, but were rather a result of Morocco's will and choice take the path of modernization, change and democracy.
“We have launched reforms, opened up to the world, and initiated change. It is true that we have still a long
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 4/4/2006 | 4:46 pm
Rabat---The war in Iraq was a deliberate intent and had nothing to do with the war on terrorism, said on Monday in Rabat Louis Cantori, US researcher and political science professor at the University of Maryland.
“By deciding to invade Iraq the next day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the US administration who tried to establish a link between the attacks and the Iraqi regime failed its mission and deviated from the real objective,” explained Cantori in a round table on US foreign policy in the Middle East, organized by the US embassy in Rabat.
Cantori stressed that only after the US invasion of Iraq that this war-torn country became a fertile ground for terrorists, indicating that there are several books which support the theory that the decision to send US troops to Iraq was taken before the al-Qaida attack on American soil.
He added that the American public mentality was so traumatized by 9/11 that the public is not able to see the whole picture of their government foreign policy.
In the same vein, Matthew Anthony Evangelista, professor of Government and Director of peace studies at Cornell University, discussed the role of born-again Christians in the US foreign policy.
Talking about the influence of Christian fundamentalists, Evangelista explained how they were mobilized to elect George Bush for his second mandate, noting that the US president identifies himself as a born-again Christian.
“For the first time around 4 million Christian fundamentalists voted for Bush for his second mandate in 2004,” said Evangelista.
He also highlighted their role in preparing the public opinion to attack Iraq, noting that their campaign started in the 90's on the morrow of the Golf War.
A 2002 poll indicated that 69% of conservative Christians favored military action against Iraq, against only 10% below the average of Jews. A high percentage (80%) of members of the Republican Party favored the war in Iraq. “The poll indicated that Americans are more politically driven than religiously,” said Evangelista.
The US researcher said that these Evangelical Christians who are composed of two groups, Christian Reconstructionists, and believers in the Dominian theory, have financial resources, their own radio and TV stations through which they promote their ideas.
“Their main interest is in domestic issues not in foreign policy. They would like to replace the US system based on the constitution and the separation of the church from the state to their own literal reading of the bible, resembling the one that governed ancient Israel,” said Evangelista.
He added that among heir goals are to make abortion illegal, allow Christian school prayers and religious symbols in public places.
Evangelista concluded that only a minority of Americans supports their ideas, but still they are influential.
Both speakers put reference to the US handling of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict referring to the government's double standards in this issue.
Participants in the round table agreed that it is up to congressmen to lessen the occurrence of terrorism by knowing the real motives behind it. This, stressed the participants, won't be done until the United States review its foreign policy in the Middle East and avoid double standards.