Morocco and the European Union are to begin talks over a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement in Rabat on 22 April.
Photo: President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso and Morocco's Prime Minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, during a press conference in Rabat on 1 March 2013.
According to the European Commission's trade services, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) will considerably extend the existing association agreement, which already establishes free trade in goods.
The envisioned DCFTA will cover services, public procurement, competition, intellectual property rights, the protection of investment and the gradual integration of the Moroccan economy into the EU single market. Areas such as industrial standards and technical regulations are concerned, as well as sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
During his visit to Morocco earlier this month, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the main objective of this agreement is to facilitate Morocco's integration into the internal market of the EU. While the actual negotiations are to start in April, the official launch was in fact announced last week by Mr. Barroso
But given the EU's reluctancy to properly exclude the occupied parts of Western Sahara from its trade deals with Morocco, it is expected that the DCFTA could have considerable effect in the territory - impacting negatively on the UN sponsored peace process by bolstering Morocco's unsubstantiated claim to Western Sahara. Consequently, European business lured into deals on occupied land, are at risk of becoming part of the prolonged conflict.
Trade between the EU and Morocco amounted to about 24 billion euro in 2011. Morocco is also the largest recipient of EU aid.
31 Saharawi civil society organisations from occupied Western Sahara and the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria have appealed to European Commission to exclude their country from the DCFTA.
The European Commission has not consulted them so far in the process.