EC Proposes Preferences to Western Sahara Products Based on EU – Morocco Association Agreement

EC Proposes Preferences to Western Sahara Products Based on EU – Morocco Association Agreement

The European Commission has approved amendments to the EU’s Association Agreement with the Kingdom of Morocco extending trade preferences to products originating in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Western Sahara is a territory in North Africa’s Maghreb region which is larger than the entire UK. It is presently divided between the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and the government of Morocco, which has had an Association Agreement with the EU since 1995.

The Commission has announced its two new proposals for Western Sahara-related decisions of the European Council are based on a draft agreement between the EU and Morocco on amending their Association Agreement (Protocols No 1 and No 4).

The EC reminds, that according to the draft agreement in question, “products originating from Western Sahara which are subject to the control of the Moroccan custom authorities benefit from the same commercial preferences granted by the EU to products covered by the association agreement”.

The Commission argues the proposed expansion of Morocco’s EU trade preferences will help improve the economic development of Western Sahara and bring benefits to its population.

This conclusion is said to be based on comprehensive consultations with local representatives and organizations from the disputed North African territory.

“The adoption of these proposals follows the December 2016 ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and aims to respect the Court’s ruling and clarify the status of products from Western Sahara for preferential tariff treatment when imported into the EU,” the EC says.

The Commission explicitly points out that the expansion of trade preferences to Western Saharan products subject to Moroccan customs controls does not compromise in any way the EU’s position of backing the UN Security-General’s endeavors towards achieving a peaceful resolution on the North African territory’s status dispute.

In its ruling, the European Court of Justice, the EU’s top court, has repeatedly upheld the right of self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

In its last relevant ruling in February 2018, it declared that the EU – Morocco Fisheries Agreement may not be applied to Western Saharan waters precisely because the Court did not “share” Morocco’s claims on Western Saharan territory.

The new EC proposals on expanding EU trade preferences to Western Saharan products under the Morocco – EU deal are to be submitted to the EU member states and the European Parliament for the subsequent steps in the legislative process.

(Banner image: Flickr)

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