WASHINGTON - U.S.
Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and Moroccan Minister-delegate of
Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Taib Fassi-Fihri today announced the launch of
negotiations on a free trade agreement between the two countries. The agreement
would eliminate tariffs and other barriers to trade in goods, agriculture,
services, and investment between the U.S. and Morocco.
"A free trade
agreement with Morocco will expand our already strong relationship with a key
economic and political partner in the Middle East," said Zoellick. "This
agreement will create economic opportunities for America's farmers, workers, and
businesses as well as bolster economic reforms and foreign investment in
The first round
of the negotiations will begin Tuesday, January 21, in Washington, D.C.
Subsequent negotiation rounds will alternate between Morocco and the U.S. with a
goal of completing the negotiations by the end of 2003. President George W. Bush
and Morocco's King Mohamad VI announced in April, 2002 that the two countries
would seek a free trade agreement.
commitment to free trade supports the development of tolerant, open, prosperous
societies," Zoellick said.
Morocco is an
emerging market at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East that
imports $11 billion worth of goods and products each year. The United States
currently exports an average $475 million worth of products to Morocco each
year. Leading exports include aircraft, corn, and machinery. Recently, exports
of fabrics and pharmaceuticals have increased significantly. Currently, U.S.
products entering Morocco face an average tariff of over 20 percent, while
Moroccan products are subject to an average tariff of 4 percent as they enter
the United States.
democratically-elected Moroccan government has launched a comprehensive economic
reform program that is aimed at reducing inflation, developing the tourism
sector and liberalizing and privatizing key sectors, such as telecommunications.
A free trade agreement with the United States, with its emphasis on the rule of
law, improved competition and trade liberalization, would enhance and solidify
The government of
Morocco has also launched an initiative to streamline investment procedures and
eliminate barriers to foreign and domestic investment. A free trade agreement
would have provisions to help improve Morocco's investment climate, as well as
protecting U.S. investments.
negotiations, the U.S. will seek to eliminate tariffs and other duties on trade
between Morocco and the United States on the broadest possible basis, improve
intellectual property rights protection, and eliminate barriers in Morocco's
services markets. The U.S. seeks to liberalize trade through multilateral,
regional, and bilateral initiatives. A free trade agreement with Morocco is an
important element of this strategy.
The World Trade Organization (WTO)
was founded in Marakesh, Morocco, in April 1994. A free trade agreement between
the U.S. and Morocco will support ongoing WTO negotiations.
The U.S. is
refocusing its existing development assistance program to link it more closely
with a free trade agreement and help Morocco meet a free trade agreement's
significant obligations. In addition to building trade capacity, U.S. technical
assistance will help Morocco in critical areas, such as agriculture sector
In addition to
the launch of negotiations with Morocco and press conference, Zoellick and
Minister Fassi-Fihri will participate in a luncheon hosted by the U.S. - Morocco
Business Coalition for senior U.S. business executives.
This month, the
United States has also launched negotiations for free trade agreements with the
five nations of the South African customs union and five nations of Central
America. In December and January, the United States also completed free trade
agreements with Chile and Singapore, which it expects to sign and forward to
Congress later this year.