Moroccan government brings in plan to reduce trade imbalance
By Sarah Touahri for Magharebia in Rabat – 22/09/08
Morocco's trade imbalance rose from 86 billion to 118 billion dirhams between 2006 and 2007 – a 26.6% increase bringing the total amount to 17% of GDP. The Caisse de Dépôt et de Gestion forecasts that if imports continue to rise faster than exports, the disparity could reach 21% of GDP.
As the imbalance continues to rise, the government is looking for solutions.
Foreign Trade Minister Abdellatif Maâzouz said earlier in September that members of the government have agreed to a plan focused on four major areas: a concerted export development strategy, the regulation of imports, market and economic monitoring, and the adaptation of regulations and working practices.
Increasing exports and honouring Morocco's commitments to its international partners are the government's top priorities, Maâzouz said, and an emphasis will be placed on the economic, environmental and tourism sectors.
The plan, Maâzouz said, "will enable us to redress the external trade situation and to reduce Morocco’s trade deficit." The minister added that that he expects to see a reversal of the imbalance by 2010.
In mid-December, Maâzouz noted, a survey process will begin to identify external markets for Moroccan exports. Each month, a committee will examine the external trade situation and implement measures to curb the deficit.
Since taking office last year, Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi has repeatedly indicated that the trade deficit issue is a priority, and that he expects to focus national development strategies on growth sectors, particularly in the export market.
Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar has said that any increase in imports needs to be met with parallel growth in production in order to secure a place on the international trading scene. Mezouar called for an emphasis to be placed on the crafts and chemicals sectors.
Economics professor Salim Marouani told Magharebia that Morocco's balance of payments continues to be affected by structural differences between its import and export structures:
"It is oil and wheat which have had the heaviest impact on imports and, as a result, worsened the trade imbalance," Marouani said. "However, this is being covered to some extent by money transfers from Moroccans living abroad and by foreign investment."
According to the Caisse de Dépôt et de Gestion, energy products, cereals, capital goods and semi-finished goods represent 70% of Morocco’s imports. International price increases for fossil fuels and cereals have had a significant impact on Morocco's trade balance.
According to Maâzouz the open market policy Morocco has adopted through adhesion to various association and free trade agreements could well resolve the trade deficit.
Mezouar's ministry agreed, saying that increased competitiveness will allow Morocco to both export to new foreign markets and protect itself from the risks involved in doing so.
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