My friend, Sayed Raees El Hokouma Benkirane, Esteemed Royal Counselors, Ministers, and Members of Parliament, Fellow Ambassadors and friends from the diplomatic corps, Distinguished guests, colleagues, and my fellow Americans.
Assalamu aleikum, bonsoir, good evening.
Thank you for joining us for this celebration of the 240th anniversary of independence of the United States of America.
Before I continue with my formal comments, I would like to recognize a special guest. Joining us tonight is Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Special Assistant to President Barack Obama. Valerie is here on holiday with her Mother, Dr. Barbara Bowman and cousin Ann Marchant Walker. Valerie we appreciate the counsel that you provide to President Obama and all that you do to make this world better for all of us. Ladies & Gentlemen, join me in extending a warm Marhaba and welcome to Valerie and family.
This is the third Independence Day celebration that I’ve had the privilege of hosting here in Morocco. Recently, I had the time to reflect on the importance of this annual tradition. National Days around the world gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on our relationship. To think about where we have been, where we want to go, and what challenges we face. To reconfirm the values that we share and consider how the world around is evolving.
And, indeed, this reflection is very important for the USA with Morocco, the first country to recognize our independence in 1777.
Ten years later in 1787, the two nations signed a Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which began what remains the longest unbroken treaty relationship in U.S. history. It is a relationship that has changed and matured as our two countries have evolved, growing from a friendship to a true partnership.
Today we partner on issues from trade and investment, to regional security, to fighting the global threat of terrorism and to promoting a development agenda that reflects His Majesty Mohammed VI’s vision for his country. We’re focused on these shared interests, which are broader and more important than ever.
And as resolute partners, we can share our differences frankly and plainly with one another. I believe that this is a sign of a strong and healthy relationship.
Friends don’t have to agree with each other 100% of the time, but it does take a strong friendship to find the courage to talk about your challenges. We are both comfortable with this dynamic, and I believe this bilateral relationship is stronger than ever.
This year we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our bilateral free trade agreement, the only free trade agreement the United States has on the entire continent of Africa.
Since this agreement came into force, the flows of trade between our two countries have expanded dramatically – an increase of over 200%. That’s a solid achievement, and it’s one that I’m proud of.
But I think there are other sides of this trade story that matter equally, like the good jobs that have been created in Morocco as a direct result of the free trade agreement, or the American companies that are increasing their investments in Morocco and the Moroccan small & mid-size companies trying to benefit from the FTA. The 150 American companies operating in Morocco today employ over 50,000 Moroccans – a number which continues to grow.
This year we also celebrate the launch of a second Millennium Challenge Compact for Morocco.
Under the first Compact, the United States and Morocco invested near 700 million dollars in Morocco’s future to help alleviate poverty, and provide resources to help raise the incomes and capabilities of Moroccans working in farming, fisheries and handicraft industry sectors.
Thanks to Morocco’s continued commitment to democratic reform, good governance and fiscal responsibility, Morocco qualified for a second Compact which will invest a further $450 million dollars in secondary education, workforce development and land reform. These are issues that the African Development Bank and other international institutions have identified as the most important obstacles to sustained economic growth and development in Morocco.
We are proud to partner with the Government of Morocco to develop programs under the Second MCC Compact that will address these obstacles.
Mr. Head of Government Benkirane often tells me that it is the principals behind the MCC – its structure, discipline and good governance standards that matter more than the dollars in this program, and I could not agree more.
Turning to education and cultural exchange, we have great news to report from the last 12 months. Just a few weeks ago, I was so pleased to welcome First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama to Marrakech.
The First Lady’s historic visit truly demonstrates the U.S. government’s commitment to its partnership with the Kingdom of Morocco, particularly in the area of gender equality.
Helping and encouraging adolescent girls worldwide to attend and remain in school is a top priority of Mrs. Obama’s, and I am proud that the U.S. and Morocco came together in support of her important Let Girls Learn education initiative.
By investing in education, we are investing in the future of the Moroccan people. Educational exchanges between U.S. universities and Moroccan partners, such as the International University of Rabat and Al Akhawayn University, are growing in size and scope.
We have made education a Mission priority, including the promotion of science education for young people. For example, we recently launched a year-long science initiative called the Morocco Science Lab. This initiative brought together more than 6,500 Moroccan students in 11 cities in science learning activities.
One of the profound highlights of this initiative was the Race2Space. The U.S. Embassy partnered with the Morocco Scientific Association in a competition for Moroccan high school students to attend the world famous Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.
The students from Morocco were among 200 students from around the world who competed together in tests of scientific knowledge and engineering creativity during their time at Space Camp. I am pleased to inform you that the Moroccan team won the award for most outstanding team. Please join me in congratulating these five brilliant Moroccan students who I have invited to join us tonight.
These young scientists represented Morocco proudly, and should give us all faith in a bright Moroccan future.
Finally, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to all of the American companies who helped sponsor this evening’s festivities.
We could not have done this without you and we are eternally grateful for your support and generous contributions.
Thanks to all of my colleagues from the U.S. Mission to Morocco that are here tonight and for your hard work and dedication to the Mission.
While we are a diverse group of individuals from America, Morocco and many other nations around the world, we come together every day to continue to strengthen the historic and extraordinary partnership between the United States and Morocco.
Thank you again, to all our guests for honoring us with your presence. Now it is my great pleasure to introduce His Excellency Abdelilah Benkirane who will make some brief comments.
And now, it’s time to celebrate! We Americans are proud of our independence and sometimes we are compelled to express our pride loudly! So if you are sound sensitive you may want to cover your ears.
On with the celebration!!!