Statement of the United States by Deputy Chief of Mission Christopher S. Wilson at the WTO Trade Policy Review of Morocco
February 2, 2016
*For the Record*
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. A very warm welcome to Minister Abbou and the rest of the Moroccan delegation. The United States would like to thank Morocco and the Secretariat for their work in compiling reports that have helped inform our understanding of Morocco’s trade policy regime and practices since its last review in 2009.
As the Secretariat’s report notes, Morocco’s economic progress since the last review has been impressive, with a doubling of GDP per capita to $3,250 in 2014. Morocco currently is ranked by the World Bank in the lower middle income category, and it has followed a very deliberate and successful strategy of economic diversification, which appears to have laid the foundation for solid future growth. We commend Morocco for remaining steadfast in its pursuit of economic reforms and liberalization. This is particularly commendable given the instability which has affected the broader Middle East and North Africa region in recent years. Morocco has persevered in the face of significant challenges, including the softening of overall demand in its main European export markets and a significant drop in foreign exchange revenue from Moroccans working abroad and foreign tourists.
As the Secretariat’s report indicates, international trade and investment have figured prominently in the Moroccan government’s plans to modernize the economy and stimulate new business activity. Morocco has negotiated perhaps the largest number of free trade agreements of any country its size. These efforts may have generated at times some measure of controversy within Morocco. In our view, however, the results are evident in the growing role of higher level manufacturing in Morocco’s export sector and in the growing interest among foreign firms in Morocco as an attractive investment destination.
The United States has been pleased to work with Morocco for over a decade to advance Morocco’s economic development through an enhanced bilateral trade and investment relationship. In 2006, our bilateral free trade agreement entered into force and immediately eliminated tariff and non-tariff barriers to bilateral trade in virtually all industrial goods and agricultural products. In February 2015, during the fourth meeting of the Joint Committee established under the FTA to manage implementation issues, we noted significant progress in a number of areas covered by the agreement. These include trade facilitation, agricultural SPS matters, and labor and environment issues related to trade. We also discussed areas in need of further progress, including additional aspects of agricultural trade. Since the FTA entered into force, the U.S. Government has attempted to strengthen the operation of the agreement through our bilateral trade reform assistance programming so that Morocco can take full advantage of its benefits.
While we see great potential in Morocco, reforms in certain areas would magnify foreign business interest in the Moroccan market. Many of the questions we have posed in this review reflect our desire to better communicate to U.S. private sector operators the opportunities and challenges that await them in Morocco. For example, we have sought additional information on various aspects of Morocco’s customs and tax regimes, as well as measures affecting exports. We believe that Morocco, in general, has a strong regime for protecting IPR and would welcome the opportunity to review recent developments related to Morocco’s copyright law, among others, as well as to learn more about Morocco’s current and future enforcement efforts to combat piracy. The United States is a consistent advocate for strong intellectual property protections as critical to creating a business-friendly economy, and in that regard we seek greater clarity with respect to a number of Moroccan policies in this area.
In closing, Morocco has amply demonstrated that integration with the international trading system is an important element in its overall economic growth strategy. The United States remains ready to work with Morocco to strengthen cooperation both in the WTO and in bilateral arenas. We thank Morocco for the responses to our questions and look forward to the continuation of this review.