Saturday

24th Jun 2017

Morocco-EU trade deal draws fire

  • New Morocco-EU trade deal draws fire (Photo: Ross Thomson)

The European Parliament has signed off a trade deal with Morocco which poses questions about the status of Western Sahara.

The pact, agreed Thursday (16 February), liberalises EU-Morocco trade in agriculture and fisheries and ups the quotas for zero or low duty imports between the two.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

EU agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos called it "a balanced agreement, which opens new opportunities for our producers in Europe and paves the way for a real reinforcement in our relations with Morocco."

It will knock off 55 percent of tariffs on Morocco agricultural products and fish and up to 70 percent of tariffs on the EU equivalent within 10 years.

Some restrictions apply to "sensitive" produce such as tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, tangerines, garlic, zucchini and sugar.

MEPs say the deal will support the country's transition to democracy while alleviating economic and security problems.

Agriculture accounts for 38 percent of the kingdom's workforce, while unprocessed fruit and vegetables from Morocco account for 80 percent of its total imports into the EU, reports Reuters.

"The European Parliament was rightly in favour of the democratic transitions that were taking place in the so called 'Arab spring,' and strongly in favour of measures encouraging economic stability in North Africa," said British Labour MEP and rapporteur David Martin.

Some tomato growers do not like it.

On Tuesday, Spanish farmers dumped 200 kilos of tomatoes on the doorstep of the European Parliament's office in Madrid in protest. Their unions say the deal risks undermining 450,000 jobs in the vegetable sector.

But other critics have more serious concerns.

Opponents say the deal flaunts international laws that prohibit commercial exploitation in the Western Sahara, however. The region - the size of the UK - was annexed by Morocco just before the Spanish pulled out their colonial masters in 1976.

Under a United Nations General Assembly resolution, the indigenous Sahrawi are entitled to a referendum to determine whether to become an independent state or an autonomous Moroccan region. No such referendum has taken place to date.

The Green's French Jose Bove said the EU should exclude the Western Sahara from the trade agreement. The US, he says, has no such trade agreement.

"It is politically irresponsible in terms of the signal its sends to the international community," he added.

"The text of the mandate does not even refer to Western Sahara, which has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975," said Mohamed Sidati, an envoy in Europe of the Polisario Front, the political wing of the region's indepenence movement.

Morocco expels EU fishing boats

Morocco has told all EU fishing boats to immediately get out of its waters after MEPs scotched a bilateral aid agreement in a row over Western Sahara.

Row between EU ministers halts e-book tax rate

A bill to reduce VAT rates on e-books and e-publications has become the latest victim of a row between the Czech Republic and its partners over its own plan to collect VAT.

Focus

EU and China move to fill US void

At a summit in Brussels, EU and Chinese leaders will attempt to deepen ties on trade and climate as US president Trump plans to pull out of the Paris climate deal.

Italy reaches EU deal on failing bank

After months of negotiations, the European Commission and Italy agreed on the terms of rescue for Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank, including job cuts, salary caps and private sector involvement in the bailout.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit