Trade MEPs back farm and fisheries deal with Morocco 

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The proposed EU-Morocco trade liberalisation agreement for farm and fishery products was approved by the International Trade Committee on Thursday. If approved by Parliament as a whole, the deal will immediately liberalise trade in 45% of EU exports (by value) to Morocco and in 55% of EU imports from Morocco.

A majority of the International Trade Committee MEPs voted against the original recommendation, drafted by José Bové (Greens/EFA, FR), which called on Parliament to withhold its consent to the agreement and instead voted by 21 votes to seven, with one abstention, to recommend that it approve it.

If approved by Parliament as a whole, the proposed agreement would immediately liberalise 45% of EU exports (by value). Over a ten-year transition period this share would then grow to 70%. It would also immediately liberalise 55% of EU imports from Morocco (by value), and also increase concessions in the fruit and vegetable sector.

However, the proposed agreement also provides for a system of entry prices and tariff quotas for sensitive EU products (especially tomatoes) and safeguard measures for use should Moroccan imports seriously disturb the EU market. 

Under the proposal, EU tinned goods, most fruits and vegetables (with the exception of beans, almonds or apples), cereals (with the exception of common wheat and durum wheat) and most EU dairy products (with the exception of ultra-high temperature milk and whole milk powder), would be completely liberalised within 10 years. Tariff quotas for non-liberalised products such as meat, cured meat, common wheat or olive oil would also be increased.

Imports of the most sensitive Moroccan products to the EU market, such as tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers, courgettes, clementines and strawberries, would not be liberalised completely but tariff quotas would be increased while the entry price system - stating the minimum price for these products entering EU market - would be maintained.

Mr Bové had argued  that the agreement would make it difficult for EU farmers to continue to compete, hinder development of balanced agriculture in Morocco and provide no guarantees that Morocco will cease to exploit child labour or allow Moroccan farmers to join trade unions, which they are prohibited from doing now. Inadequate checks on the quantities of goods imported, low entry prices for Moroccan products and inclusion of Western Sahara in the proposed agreement were among other concerns he raised.

Next Steps

The trade liberalisation agreement  is  to  be put to a plenary vote at the next plenary session in Strasbourg (13 - 16 February 2012). If approved by the full House, nothing is expected to prevent its entry into force once all the approval formalities are completed.