Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the Corporate Council on Africa’s United Nations General Assembly Forum on Morocco

Thank you, Ambassador McDonald, for that kind introduction. And a warm welcome to His Excellency Minister El-Alamy and Director Seddiki. We are so grateful to have you join us. My thanks also to Florie Liser and CCA for hosting today’s dialogue, and for your continued leadership connecting U.S. business with opportunities on the African Continent.

Our country has shared a special bond with Morocco since 1777, when Morocco became the first nation in the world to recognize the United States’ independence from England. And just nine years later, the Kingdom was the first country to negotiate a treaty with our new nation when King Sultan Muhammad III and then-diplomats Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Thomas Barclay signed the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship in 1786. To date, it is our longest sustaining international treaty.

I am pleased that over the centuries, our social, cultural, and economic relationship has remained a close one. In 2019, the U.S. exported $3.5 billion to Morocco, up from $3 billion in 2018. Moroccan exports to the U.S. remained stable at $1.6 billion both in 2018 and 2019, up with slight increases from $1.2 billion in 2017. And our trade surplus with Morocco increased from $1.4 billion in 2018 to $1.9 billion in 2019. Our exports of goods and services to Morocco support an estimated 12 thousand American jobs.

And several U.S. companies have set up operations in Morocco because of its political and economic stability. In fact, the Kingdom rose seven spots from 2019’s World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings to 53rd in the world in 2020. It ranks as the third most attractive country for investment in the MENA region, and number one in the Maghreb.

Still, Morocco, faces challenges in the wake of COVID-19’s damaging impact to the entire MENA region, and the global economy as a whole. In July, the IMF estimated that the Coronavirus pandemic would prompt a 5.7 percent decrease in real GDP annual growth in the Middle East and North Africa in 2020. Oil production and tourism are among the sectors hardest hit by the COVID crisis. And impact from these economic declines is rippling across the MENA region.

Continuing to remove barriers to trade will aid in ameliorating your economic and investment climate with near-term effect, especially in areas like infrastructure, aerospace and defense, and energy. American companies can and have offered expertise and experience in these sectors as you work to meet the needs of your growing population. Your population increased by nearly 8 million between 1998 and 2018.

Recent reforms, including the streamlining of paperless customs clearance and increased protections for minority investors, were important steps that will lead to continued growth for both our economies. And of note, within the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration, the Advocacy Center has recorded five advocacy assistance WINS for U.S. aerospace, defense, and energy business in Morocco, and we have one additional case pending. The total cumulative project value of these cases is $4.1 billion with an estimated $3.1 billion in U.S. export content.

And turning now to infrastructure, American companies are eager to engage more as you identify additional needs in your water sector. We were pleased to welcome an official Moroccan delegation last September to the Water Environment Federation’s Technical Exhibition and Conference, where they met with key players in the private and public sectors and visited the “Jardine Water Plant” in Chicago. And we look forward to highlighting Morocco this October 7 through 9 during the Discover Global Markets event in Indianapolis, where Director Siddeki will join us again to discuss major upcoming projects in the Kingdom.

Additionally, Acting Under Secretary for International Trade Joe Semsar is looking forward to visiting Morocco with the DFC-led U.S. delegation later this week.

Before I close, it is my pleasure to invite all of you to participate in the Commerce Department’s 2021 SelectUSA Investment Summit taking place June 6 through June 9, 2021, in Washington, D.C. This event provides a unique opportunity for Moroccan business executives to meet with economic development organizations from across the United States.

Last year’s Summit was the first attended by a Moroccan delegation, and it included 15 individuals from the legal services, logistics and distribution, hygienic products, catering and event planning, beauty products and cosmetics, financial services, agro-business, pharmaceuticals, and food and beverage industries, as well as members of AmCham and the Moroccan Exporters Association. I look forward to welcoming a Moroccan delegation once again to next year’s Summit.

The U.S. Government is committed to providing these kinds of resources in support of initiatives that deepen commercial ties between our two countries. So I thank you, again, for your devotion to our long-term bilateral relationship and friendship. And I look forward to today’s discussion. Thank you. Enjoy the rest of the conference.