21/02/2012 Is an agreement on the liberalisation of trade in agricultural products between the EU and Morocco soon to be adopted?

The vote on the free trade of agricultural and fishery products between the EU and the Kingdom of Morocco was finally arranged for 16 February. Opinions in the European Parliament are very divided on the issue, although a consensus that is favorable to it is emerging. The rapporteur, French Green member José Bové, is openly opposed to its adoption.

The agreement would see a considerable reduction, gradually over ten years, of customs tariffs for European products in Morocco and vice versa. The European Commission, which negotiated this agreement, hopes to boast the exportation of cereals and dairy products to Morocco, a country that will experience strong demographic growth. For Rabat, their fruit and vegetables would have easier access to the European market. Spain, which is against this agreement, fears this new competition. Spanish farmers have protested to show their unhappiness, and put 200 kilos of tomatoes in the street in front of the European Parliament’s office in Madrid.

History of EU/Moroccan relations:

  • 1969:  First trade agreement with the EU.
  • 2000: Implementation of the association agreement, which fixes the necessary conditions for the progressive liberalization of the trade of goods, services and capital;
  • 2003: Launch of the European neighbours policy that deepens the Euro-Mediterranean partnership.

According to rapporteur José Bové the agreement would only benefit ‘a handful of big business on both sides of the Mediterranean, at the expense of family agriculture’. The increase in exportation would be 50% on the EU side, against 15% for Morocco, even though 20% of the Moroccan population works in the agriculture sector. He adds that this agreement would amount to ‘considerably reducing Morocco’s capacity to ensure its food security’, and he said it was mostly relevant to ‘European businesses that exported cereals and milk powder’. José Bové adds that rejecting this agreement would ‘allow for the opening up of new negotiations with Morocco, on a different basis.’

On the other hand, Cristiana Muscardini (Italy-EPP) hopes that the outcome of the vote will be positive. This agreement is a unique opportunity ‘to encourage the development of the Euromed zone, and of countries like Morocco, who have recently undertaken considerable democratic reforms’. It will benefit both parties, European farmers that can ‘exchange and export their products in the Euromed zone, and in Morocco, ‘encouraging the development of the agricultural sector through European importation and exportation’. Cristiana Muscardini speaks of ‘responsibility to a neighboring country’ and she thinks that this agreement is a ‘portal to Mediterranean markets’.

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