European Commission adopts draft food trade deal with Morocco

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Free trade agreement, International trade

The European Commission has adopted a draft trade agreement for the agri-food and fisheries sectors with Morocco that would open up new export opportunities for the EU food sector, especially for processed agricultural products.

Perched on the edge of Europe, the kingdom’s major trading partner within Europe has historically been France, but it also has had a free trade agreement with the United States since 2004. According to the EU food and beverage industry group the CIAA, EU exports to Morocco totalled €358m in 2008, having grown 43 per cent since 2000.

The draft agreement, adopted yesterday, would allow for an immediate liberalisation for 45 per cent of EU exports by value, rising to 70 per cent in ten years. Tinned food, dairy products, oilseeds and fruit and vegetables would have full liberalisation. The fisheries sector would have 91 per cent liberalisation after five years and 100 per cent after 10.

Exceptions to the above are pasta, for which a quantitative restriction will be applied, wheat and durum wheat, liquid milk and whole milk powder. Tariff quotas have also been negotiated for beans, sweet almonds, apples and tomato concentrates.

“The agreement will allow both parties to take full advantage of changing consumption and market potential, while reinforcing cooperation and safeguard mechanisms,” said the Commission statement. The agreement will now pass to the Council and the European Parliament for approval.

Provisions are also included on international obligations on health and plant health matters, and open negotiations will be conducted on protection of geographical indications for specialty food products.

Roadmap

The new agreement comes in the context of the Euro-Mediterranean roadmap for agriculture adopted in November 2005 and known as the Rabat roadmap. Negotiations on trade liberalisation commenced the following year.

The immediate opening up of 45 per cent of EU imports in value terms is seen as a major effort by Morocco.

Tough economy

A recent analysis of the Moroccan food and beverage sector by Euromonitor International reported that packaged food sales in Morocco were down in 2009 as a result of economic pressure.

As they watched their spending, consumers tended to cut back on ready meals and processed foods in favour of cheaper unprocessed foods. Moreover although the manufacturer scene is fragmented local firms benefited the shift towards more affordable brands.

Related topics: Business

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