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6/20/04 - U.S.-MOROCCO FREE TRADE - 2004-06-21

The U.S. and Morocco have signed a free trade agreement. The pact will expand opportunities for workers, manufacturers, farmers, ranchers, and service providers, as well as consumers, in both countries. In the Middle East, the U.S. already has free trade agreements with Israel and Jordan. And the U.S. recently completed negotiations for a similar agreement with Bahrain.

Step by step, says Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, the U.S. “is working to build bridges of free trade with economic and social reformers in the Middle East. [The U.S.] plan offers trade and openness as vital tools for leaders striving to build more open, optimistic, and tolerant Islamic societies.” These agreements, said Mr. Zoellick, are “the building blocks that will lead to President [George W.] Bush’s vision of a Middle East Free Trade Area.”

President Bush announced the goal of a free trade area in May 2003:

“Across the globe, free markets and trade have helped defeat poverty and taught men and women the habits of liberty. So I propose the establishment of a U.S.-Middle East free trade area within a decade to bring the Middle East into an expanding circle of opportunity, to provide hope for the people who live in that region.”

Morocco currently imports about eleven-billion dollars in goods each year. Annual imports from the U.S. average slightly less than a half-billion dollars in products such as aircraft, corn, machinery, pharmaceuticals, and fabrics.

U.S. products entering Morocco face an average tariff of more than twenty percent, while Moroccan products are subject to an average tariff of four percent as they enter the U.S. But under the new U.S.-Morocco free trade agreement, tariffs will be immediately eliminated on ninety-five percent of bilateral trade in consumer and industrial products. And the remaining tariffs will be eliminated within nine years. Barriers to trade in agricultural products and services will also be reduced. This should result in greatly increased trade both ways between the U.S. and Morocco.

“Through free trade agreements,” says U.S. Trade Representative Zoellick, “we can embrace reforming states. . .bolstering their chances for success even as we open new markets for American goods and services.”