AGRI Committee Rebuke Flawed Trade Deal

12 July 2011
Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, has welcomed today's decision by the committee to recommend a rejection of the proposed EU-Morocco agricultural trade deal, as a triumph for human rights and the protection of social and environmental standards.
The proposed deal, which was rejected by a cross-party coalition of 24 votes to 14, following the Opinion of Italian MEP Lorenzo Fontana, left legal uncertainty over whether the Western Sahara would be considered as part of Moroccan territory under the agreement.

The text of the EU-Morocco agreement, which would liberalise 45% of the value of Moroccan agricultural imports from the EU, and 55% of EU agricultural imports from Morocco, was also lacking in "social clauses" such as environmental protection and workers rights. Moroccan operators have also failed, in the past, to abide by rules on time frames and tariff quotas. The agreement now goes to the International Trade Committee where Smith's group colleague Jose Bove is rapporteur. Parliament's consent is required for the trade deal to be agreed.

Smith said:

"I have been a vocal critic of DG Trade's narrow obsession with concluding deals at the expense of wider concerns in the past and so I am naturally pleased with the outcome of today's vote.

"We in Europe should be far more aggressive in pushing our production methods and our values in global and bilateral trade talks: whether this means standing up to the Americans and their market-linked support systems at the WTO or demanding an improvement in the situation in the Occupied Territories before upgrading our Associational Agreement with Israel. Unfortunately, it seems that our negotiators at DG Trade remain convinced that free trade will solve all the world's problems. I'm philosophically in favour of free trade, but not at any price. I want to see free trade which is also hedged by strong support for social, environmental and human rights as well as economic development.  

"That's just not what this deal was about. Not only were there no carrots or sticks to encourage the raising of Moroccan standards, but the hedging by our legal services over whether Western Sahara would be included or not was disgraceful. That reason alone was enough to call for a rejection. To implement a flawed deal like this at a time when our fruit and vegetable producers are suffering from the e-coli scare is just wrong. Furthermore, I'm disappointed by the actions of some MEPs, who talk a good talk when denouncing the effects of a deal with Mercosur, but have no difficulty with supporting an agreement which actually colludes in the violation of human rights."

Western Sahara has been occupied by Moroccan troops since 1979, despite the fact that 81 states recognise the Western Saharan resistance forces as the legitimate government, and the Moroccan government has been accused of systematic abuse of human rights, such as the "disappearance" of political activists, torture, and violence against peaceful demonstrators.