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French Version

US, Morocco sign free-trade agreement

The United States and Morocco signed a free-trade agreement Tuesday, some three months after the pact was concluded by negotiators, officials said. US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and Morocco's minister-delegate for foreign affairs Taieb Fassi Fihri signed the deal at the US State Department, but it still faces an uphill battle in the US Congress, which must approve it.

The Moroccan minister called the deal "a new incentive to proceed with more reforms" in his country, saying it "bridges between us and the United States, but also the Middle East, Africa and Europe."

US officials said the agreement calls for more than 95 percent of consumer and industrial products to become tariff free immediately, with all remaining tariffs eliminated within nine years. Key US export sectors affected include information technology, construction equipment, machinery and chemicals.

The agreement, if ratified, would open up access for US banks, insurance companies, telecommunications companies, express delivery companies, and construction and engineering firms, US officials said. It also provides increased access to Morocco for US poultry, beef and wheat under tariff-rate quotas. Tariffs on corn, sorghum, and soybeans will be cut significantly or eliminated immediately. Rabat and Washington had originally hoped to thrash out a deal by the end of 2003.

Beirut,06 28 2004
Yann Rotil
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