Congress Approves US, Morocco Free Trade Agreement
Pact is the first with an African country, second with an Arab nation
WASHINGTON, DC - 07/26/04 - Both houses of Congress have approved US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA) legislation and sent it to the White House for the President's signature.
The House of Representatives voted 323-99 to pass legislation implementing the trade pact with the Senate voting 85-13 to approve it and agreeing to accept the House version of the bill without an additional vote.
For a bill to become law, both chambers must approve identical legislation before it can go to White House for the president's signature or veto.
The new FTA is the first the US has crafted with an African country and its second with an Arab country. Regionally, the US currently has free trade agreements with Israel and Jordan.
The pact will eliminate tariffs on 95% of US-Morocco trade in industrial and consumer goods and will lower barriers for agricultural products and services such as banking and insurance.
Among the groups actively supporting the agreement were the California Council for International Trade (CCIT) and its Washington, DC-based partner, the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC).
The CCIT and the NFTC - the later taking an active role as a member of the 80-organization US-Morocco FTA Coalition - combined efforts with the Washington, DC-based Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) to educate members of Congress on the criticality of the FTA and its importance in achieving economic stability in the Middle East.
In a recent letter to Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the Coalition said, "The US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement includes the best market access package of any US FTA with a developing country - granting more than 95% of bilateral trade in consumer and industrial products immediate duty-free access in Morocco."?
More importantly, the letter stated, the agreement will "level the playing field and enhance the competitive position of US farmers, manufacturers and service companies vis-୶is the European Union, which currently has a free trade agreement with Morocco."
California posted some $27 million in export sales to Morocco in 2003 - 13% or about $3 million more than the previous year - with a significant percentage of that total made up of industrial equipment and aerospace products and parts, according to the DOC.
The state ranked 5th in the country in total growth in export sales to the North African nation from 1999 to 2003 - a surge of almost 33%.
Moroccan exports to the US currently amount to $381 million annually, while US-based companies export about $475 million worth of products to Morocco yearly.
Leading exports include aircraft, bulk corn, and industrial machinery.
Recently, exports of fabrics and pharmaceuticals have also increased significantly, according to figures released by the US Department of Commerce (DOC).
A total of 872 US-based companies exported merchandise to Morocco in 2001 - the latest year for which figures are available. Of those, some 67% were classified as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with fewer than 500 employees.
SMEs generated more than one-third, or about 36%, of the known value of total US exports to Morocco in 2001. This, the DOC said, was well above the total SME share of US exports to the world, which in 2001 stood at about 29%.
Historically, Morocco was the first country in the world to recognize the newly sovereign United States in 1777 and the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two countries, negotiated ten years later, is the longest unbroken treaty relationship in US history.
In addition to the latest FTA with Morocco, Washington has completed free trade agreements with Chile, Jordan, Singapore, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Australia, the Dominican Republic, and Bahrain.
The US is currently negotiating free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Thailand and with the five nations of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) - Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Namibia.
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