Morocco has subscribed to a step of stowage towards the centres of economic development. One of the last Free Trade Agreements (FTA) that Morocco has concluded is that with the U.S, signed in 2004, and came into effect in 2006. This project to establish a Free-Trade Area (FTA) is coupled with another, not less ambitious; namely, the Euro-Moroccan FTA, to come into operation on March 1, 2012. These agreements have a scope that goes beyond strictly commercial aspects. As a sphere of influence of The U.S and Europe, Morocco has to capitalize these projects for an optimal use. Our country would gain a lot from these strategic partnerships which are still at the beginning stages. But they are equally bearers of substantial stakes. In concluding these agreements, the geopolitical side of Morocco has appreciably increased, taking into account the dynamic and transversal nature of these agreements.

It is of great interest to identify, in a comparative optic, the similarities and the differences between the FTA signed between Morocco and The U.S and that with the E.U.

Our starting point is an axial question: are the two agreements compatible or not?

To clarify this problematic, we are placed not only in a legal perspective, but a geopolitical one as well. In fact, we wonder, in a synthetic manner, about the legal foundation of the two agreements. Besides, a question of cultural connotation and with geopolitical dimension is brought up: is the legal and political philosophy presiding over the two agreements identical or different? It is also interesting to establish a link between the new configuration of commercial exchanges, originated from FTA, and from the support, more and more perceptible, of the Western powers for the Moroccan initiative on granting a large autonomy for the southern provinces, notably in the light of Resolution 1754 by the Security Council of the U.N, of April 30, 2007, qualifying the settled initiative as « credible and genuine ».

The two Free Trade Agreements are, fundamentally, almost identical to the plan of their legal system since they are articulated on the pertinent provisions of The World Trade Organization (WTO). However, at the level of their cultural significance and their geopolitical basis, they do not totally converge.

A link between the free trade dynamic interlocked by these agreements and the question of the Sahara can be found. In the end, the establishment of FTA will end up by overcoming tariff barriers, and as a consequence, will contribute to the resolution of the Sahara question, granting privilege to the integrationist paradigm to that, antiquated, of an isolated state. Time, in fact, is for prosperous regional blocs capable of weighing on the course of international commercial negotiations and standing fast in the face of emerging powers such China, India or Brazil.

In this order of ideas, the two trade powers, the U.S and the E.U, support the Moroccan proposal to grant a large autonomy for the southern provinces, submitted to the Security Council on April 11, 2007.  In other words, the creation of a micro state in the south of Morocco can but restrain the geopolitical aims of the two powers and, consequently, shuffle the geostrategic cards they have already been drawn. Nevertheless, there is a noteworthy remark. The Europeans, maybe because of geographic proximity, seize more than the Americans the sense and the reach of the geopolitical depth of the South of Morocco: the fishing agreement of 2005 between Morocco and the E.U. has integrated the Moroccan southern coasts in its territorial field of application. Whereas, the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S has excluded the southern provinces from its field of application: realism or tactic?

The double openness of Morocco onto the world, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic will make of it, in the future, a major geopolitical pivot in North Africa. The interest of Morocco is to use these two instruments to intensify its exchanges with the two trading powers, spread its influence beyond the traditional areas and, therefore, come out of the geopolitical encircling that Algeria seeks to impose on Morocco by supporting the creation of a micro state in the south of the country, cutting Morocco of its natural extension towards the south and depriving it from one of its African geopolitical depth.

Nowadays, new alliances are woven, new poles are constituted and new geopolitical cards are drawn. With the arrival of Nicolas Sarkozy into power in May 2007, France is ambitious to approach the U.S. Its project to create a Mediterranean Union can boost the process of Barcelona; otherwise, the Maghreb countries will be pushed to reinforce their horizontal cooperation in order to ward off their common perils. A new process is thus set to unfold and Morocco has to sound out work dynamics to make better use of it.

As a last analysis, a two-way competitive dynamic set in motion by the two free-exchange agreements, a bearer, maybe, of certain areas of turbulence is beneficial to Morocco, which has to manage it in a dialectic manner, making of the Kingdom of the setting sun a pole of economic attraction and an area of regional stability.

Zakaria Abbouddahab
Professor at the University Mohammed V Rabat-Agdal

02/10/2012