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EU Parliament approves Morocco Ag Trade Deal

An EU-Morocco trade deal that will significantly extend duty-free sales of agricultural and fisheries products between the two sides was approved by European lawmakers on Thursday 16 February, amid concerns that the pact could threaten the livelihoods of small-scale agricultural producers in both the North African kingdom and the 27-country bloc.

European Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş praised the bilateral deal and the “new opportunities” it would provide for European producers. The agreement also “paves the way for a real reinforcement in our relations with Morocco,” the EU farm chief added.

The reciprocal agreement will allow 70 percent of EU agricultural exports to enter Morocco duty-free within the next decade. For its part, the EU will lift all its current duties on 55 percent of imports from Morocco.

The pact also includes a handful of measures to limit the impact of granting improved access to unprocessed fruit and vegetables from Morocco. For instance, the deal will allow only moderate increases in import quotas for certain sensitive products, along with including seasonal import quotas to avoid oversupply within the EU market. Fruits and vegetables currently account for 80 percent of total EU imports from the North African country, so the deal looks to be beneficial to the EU market but has faced growing opposition in recent weeks, with critics arguing that the pact could damage the livelihoods of small-scale producers in Morocco and Europe.

Although it was approved by a 369-225 margin, European Parliament President Martin Schulz acknowledged that “this was not an easy vote.” “Morocco and the European Commission must now help in dispelling the concerns of many of my colleagues on the agreement especially for what concerns the rights of farmers, combating fraud, environmental protection, and food safety standards,” Schulz said.

The deal is expected to be formally adopted by EU ministers in the coming weeks before entering into force in May or June.

Source: ICTSD