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Parliament has given its consent to liberalise EU-Morocco trade in agricultural and fisheries products, while adopting a resolution highlighting a number of concerns. The votes on Thursday follow approval on Tuesday to allow Morocco to participate in certain EU programmes.

Parliament's green light (369 votes in favour, 225 against and 31 abstentions) allows an increase in certain quotas for zero or low duty imports and represents a step towards a more extensive free trade agreement.

The agreement will immediately reduce or remove 55% of tariffs on Morocco agricultural and fisheries products (up from 33%) and 70% of tariffs on EU agricultural and fisheries products within 10 years (rising from 1%).

Support and safeguards

The trade deal is intended to boost EU-Morocco ties and support the transition to democracy following the Arab Spring. A majority of MEPs say the agreement will help alleviate economic, migratory and security problems.

The agreement includes safeguards, for example by allowing only moderate increases to quotas of certain products, such as tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers and garlic. The deal also provides for seasonal quotas to counter distortion of the EU market and says Moroccan imports should meet European sanitary standards.

Concerns and objections

A significant minority of MEPs, including rapporteur José Bové (Greens/EFA, FR), who withdrew his name from the report after the plenary vote, opposed granting consent, amid concerns regarding small-scale farmers in the EU and environment and labour conditions in Morocco. Opponents also cited the inclusion of the disputed Western Sahara region in the deal as being incompatible with international law.

In an accompanying resolution adopted by MEPs by 398 in favour, 50 abstentions and 175 against, Parliament called on the Commission to monitor strict application of quotas and strengthen controls to avoid alleged fraud in the entry price system. The resolution also requests an assessment of the impact on European producers and farmers' incomes.

Morocco and EU programmes 

On Tuesday, Parliament gave its consent to an agreement with Morocco that sets out the general principles for participation in EU programmes. Morocco has expressed an interest in programmes in the fields of competitiveness and innovation, freight transport, customs and air traffic control.