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.”