Cablegate: Morocco - 2010 Investment Climate


DE RUEHCL #0008/01 0140925
R 140925Z JAN 10




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 09 STATE 124006

The 2010 Investment Climate Statement for Morocco

A.1. Openness to Foreign Investment

Morocco actively encourages foreign investment and
has sought to facilitate it through sound macro-
economic policies, trade liberalization, and
structural reforms. The U.S. Free Trade Agreement
(FTA) and the Association Agreement with the EU
have led Morocco to reduce its tariffs on imports
from the U.S. and EU. Morocco has also signed a
quadrilateral FTA with Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan,
and a bilateral FTA with Turkey. Additionally, it
is seeking trade and investment accords with other
African, Asian and Latin American countries.

The U.S.-Morocco FTA has nearly doubled exports and
tripled inward investment since 2006. Nonetheless,
challenges remain. According to the World Bank's
2009 "Doing Business in Morocco" report, the
country's excessive bureaucratic red tape continues
to be a major constraint on the competitiveness of
the economy and deters investors. To facilitate
foreign investment, the government has created a
number of Regional Investment Centers to minimize
and accelerate administrative procedures.
Investments in excess o 200 million MAD (USD 26
million) are, in additio, referred to a special
ministerial committee chired by the Prime
Minister. In 2009, the Commision approved 56
projects totaling more than USD .8 billion.

Morcco's 1995 Investment Charter aplies to both
foreign and Moroccan investors, wit foreign
exchange provisions favoring foreign inestors.
Foreign investment is permitted in nearl every
sector. The world's largest phosphate prducer,
Morocco's Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP),
has opened its phosphate hub to foreign investors
to set up new fertilizer and chemical plants, a
move seen by analysts as a step towards
liberalizing the phosphate sector. OCP's chairman
told the press that OCP is planning an initial
public offering. Additionally, although foreigners
are prohibited from owning agricultural land, the
law does allow for long-term leases of up to 99
years and permits agricultural land to be purchased
for non-agricultural purposes. To attract foreign
investment in its agricultural sector, Morocco
recently set aside about 50,000 HA of communal land
readily available for leasing to French, Spanish
and Middle Eastern investors. Agricultural foreign
investments are targeted mostly at citrus and
olives, with some small investments in grapes and

Year Index Ranking
2009 TI Corruption Index 89 out of 180
2010 Heritage Economic Freedom 101 out of 183
2010 World Bank Doing Business 128 out of 183
2010 MCC Gov Effectiveness 77th Percentile
2010 MCC Rule of Law 60th Percentile
2010 MCC Control of Corruption 73rd Percentile
2010 MCC Fiscal Policy 36th Percentile
2010 MCC Trade Policy 96th Percentile
2010 MCC Regulatory Quality 57th Percentile
2010 MCC Business Start Up 79th Percentile
2010 MCC Land Rights Access 61st Percentile
2010 MCC Natural Resource Mgmt 64th Percentile

A.2. Conversion and Transfer Policies

The Moroccan dirham is convertible for all current-
account and selected-capital account transactions.
Particularly, capital-account repatriation
transactions are convertible if the original
investment is registered with the foreign exchange
office. Morocco's foreign exchange law enables
expatriate employees to repatriate their entire

Foreign exchange is readily available through
commercial banks for the following activities
without prior government approval: Remittances by
foreign residents; repatriation of dividends and
capital by foreign investors; and payment for
foreign technical assistance, royalties and

The current exchange-rate regime is a tightly
managed float against a euro-dominated basket of
currencies. The Moroccan dirham thus tends to move
in line with the Euro. It strengthened through
much of 2009 against the dollar, but gave up some
of those gains at the end of the year, and entered
2010 at about 7.90 MAD to the dollar.

A.3. Expropriation and Compensation

Mission Morocco is not aware of any recent,
confirmed instances of private property being
expropriated for other than public purposes, or
being expropriated in a manner that is
discriminatory or not in accordance with
established principles of international law.

A.4. Dispute Settlement

In general, investor rights are backed by an
impartial procedure for dispute settlement that is
transparent. In 2009, however, a few U.S.
Companies had investment disputes with the
Government of Morocco. In most cases, through U.S.
advocacy, these minor disputes were resolved with
the relevant government agencies.

While Morocco's commercial and appeals courts have
generally improved the dispute settlement climate,
Moroccan and foreign companies continue to complain
about the inefficiency and the lack of transparency
in the judicial system. Among King Mohammed VI's
six priority areas identified in a major annual
address in August 2009 were improving the business
environment and the fairness and efficiency of the
judicial system. The king's emphasis is well
placed, as recent UN and World Bank studies
highlight Morocco's shortcomings in this area,
indicating that bankruptcy protection and
liquidation procedures are inefficient and that the
courts are slow and often fail to enforce legal

In an effort to promote foreign investment, the
Moroccan legislature has adopted laws to protect
both foreign investors and their Moroccan
counterparts. Morocco is a member of the
International Center for the Settlement of
Investment Disputes (ICSID) and a party to the 1958
Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of
Foreign Arbitral Awards (with reservations) and the
1965 Convention on the Settlement of Investment
Disputes between States and Nationals of Other
states. New legislation extending the scope of
arbitration and mediation and giving them added
legal standing took place in July 2007, partly as a
result of FTA required reforms. Arbitration, in
particular, finds increasing use in Morocco today.
Moreover, USAID, in collaboration with IFC,
assisted the Government in establishing a national
commission on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
with a mandate to regulate mediation training
centers and develop mediator certification systems.
The goal of this program is to increase the use of
mediation in the prevention phase of bankruptcy
proceedings and in the resolution of business
disputes outside of the courts.

A.5. Performance Requirements/Incentives

At present, there are no general foreign investor
performance requirements. However, in the event
that government incentives are provided,
requirements may be imposed, and if so, would be

spelled out in the specific investment contract.

Morocco provides a range of investment incentives,
particularly in the off-shoring sector where it has
developed a successful fiscal incentive scheme to
attract off-shoring clientele to its facilities.
The incentives include a corporate tax holiday
during the first five years of business and a 17.5
percent rate thereafter; telecommunications costs
that are set at 35 percent below the market price;
and training grants of up to USD 7,000 for each
Moroccan employee during the first three years of

American citizens can enter Morocco for a period of
three months without a visa. A Moroccan residence
permit is required for a period of more than three

A.6. Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Private ownership is permitted in all but a few
sectors reserved for the state, such as phosphate
mining. Economic analysts, however, speculate that
as Morocco's phosphate processing increasingly
becomes open to foreign investment, so will its
mining sector. Apart from a few exceptions,
private entities may freely establish, acquire and
dispose of interests in business enterprises.

In 2009 a number of firms including the national
port operator (Marsa Maroc) were placed on the
short list of companies to be privatized in the
near future.

A.7. Protection of Property Rights

The U.S.-Morocco FTA contains strong intellectual
property protections, which were incorporated in
Moroccan intellectual property legislation in 2006.
Pursuant to the FTA obligations, Morocco enacted
legislation that increased protection of
trademarks, copyrights and patents. While the
protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is
improving as a result of these provisions,
counterfeit DVDs and CDs remain widely available
throughout Morocco and weaknesses remain in
country's mechanisms for detection and sanctioning
of internet-based IPR violations. Morocco's
Customs Office, Copyright Office (BMDA), and the
Office of Industrial and Commercial Property
(OMPIC) have initiated campaigns to target
Morocco's largest counterfeit manufacturers and
importers, with mixed success. Consumer product
companies tell us that counterfeiters have become
increasingly sophisticated in their production and
distribution of counterfeit goods.

Secured interests in property are recognized and
enforced through the "Administration de la
Conservation Fonciere."

A.8. Transparency of the Regulatory System

Despite government efforts to increase the system's
transparency, Morocco's administration is opaque
and difficult to navigate. Routine permits,
especially those required by local government
agencies, can be difficult to obtain. Morocco has
sought to increase the transparency of its public
tenders, but moves to decentralize the procurement
process have had the opposite effect in recent

In 2006 a new charter for the central bank created
an independent board of directors and prohibited
the Ministry of Finance and Economy from borrowing
from the central bank except in exceptional

A.9. Efficient Capital Markets and Portfolio

Morocco's banking system is one of the most
liberalized in North Africa. Nonetheless, it is
highly concentrated, with the six largest banks
accounting for 85 percent of banking sector assets.
The IMF/World Bank's updated Financial System
Stability Assessment concluded that the system was
"stable, adequately capitalized, profitable and
resilient to shocks." It noted the progress
Morocco has made in deepening financial
intermediation (39 percent of the population has a
bank account, up from 36 percent in 2007) and in
reducing the overall level of non-performing assets
(down from 11 percent in 2006 to 6 percent at the
end of 2008).

A new Moroccan banking law was passed in 2006,
strengthening the supervisory power of the central
bank and improving risk management practices.
Morocco is moving towards complete adoption of
Basel II capital adequacy and risk management
guidelines in order to improve financial stability,
while also adopting International Accounting
Standards (IAS), both intended to enhance

Credit is allocated on market terms, and foreign
investors are able to obtain credit on the local
market. There are some cross-shareholding
arrangements, but they are not tailored to exclude
foreign investment. The Mission has not heard of
any efforts by the private sector or industry to
restrict foreign participation in standard-setting
organizations. The government has actively sought
out the participation of foreign investors for
discussions on improving the business climate in

Some foreign banks are critical of what they view
as a lack of proportionate participation in the
Moroccan Bankers' Association. Moroccan banks are
largely in compliance with the Basel I standards
and have become Basel II compliant, as required by
the Moroccan central bank. Banks are supervised on
a consolidated basis and must provide statements
audited by certified public accountants. In 2009,
ten banks submitted consolidated financial
statements based on Basel II standards.

The Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE), founded in
1929 and re-launched as a private institution in
1993, is one of the few regional exchanges with no
restrictions on foreign participation. An average
of 30 percent of its total capitalization is in
foreign hands. The Exchange prospered during the
early 1990s but suffered a bear market from late
1998 through 2002, with a decline in listings to
approximately 50 companies and a reduction of
market capitalization to approximately USD 8.3
billion. An ensuing bull market lasted nearly five
years, but the market weakened in 2008. With the
global credit crisis and its spillover on the real
economy dampening foreign investment inflows and
demand for exports, the CSE declined further in
2009. The volume of shares traded on the CSE was
disappointing, falling by more than 39 percent
compared with the same period in 2008. Market
capitalization also dropped by 13 percent over the
same period.

Analysts note that the market is buoyed by
continuing restrictions on the ability of Moroccans
to invest abroad. Gradual easing of these limits
is widening Moroccan investors' options, however,
and while there has been discussion of full
currency liberalization in the medium term, those
plans will likely be delayed as a result of the
international financial crisis.

A.10. Competition from State-Owned Enterprises

Morocco maintains partial or full state ownership
in several sectors, from phosphate mining to
transportation to telecommunications. While the

leaders of Morocco's state-owned enterprises (SOE)
are appointed by the King, most report to a Board
of Directors chaired by a Minister or royal or
prime ministerial appointee, and publish annual

SOEs compete with private firms under the same
terms and conditions.

A.11. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

CSR has gained strength in tandem with Morocco's
economic expansion and stability. The country's
businesses are slowly embracing responsibility for
the impact of their activities on the environment,
communities, employees and consumers. As an
example, the General Federation of Moroccan
Businesses (CGEM) recently awarded the country's
first "social labels" to 13 companies based on a
systematic analysis of the effects of their
activities. While there is no legislation
mandating specific levels of CSR, foreign and some
local enterprises follow generally accepted
principles such as the OECD CSR guidelines for
multinational companies. NGOs are also taking an
increasingly active role in monitoring
corporations' CSR performance.

A.12. Political Violence

Morocco is a monarchy with a Constitution,
government, parliament and judiciary, in which
ultimate power and authority rest with the throne.
A democratic reform process is underway and the
country is broadly regarded as politically stable.
The U.S. Government maintains excellent relations
with Morocco and has designated Morocco a Major
non-NATO Ally. A series of terrorist bombings in
Casablanca in March and April 2007, the first major
incidents since the Casablanca bombings of 2003,
highlighted the fact that Morocco continues to face
a terrorist threat. U.S. facilities were targeted
in 2007. Counterterrorism cooperation is good.
The Moroccan Government aggressively investigates
terrorist suspects and has dismantled a number of
terrorist cells over the past year.

Demonstrations occur frequently in Morocco and
usually center on domestic issues. During periods
of heightened regional tension, large
demonstrations may take place in major cities.
Although these demonstrations have been peaceful,
well organized, and well controlled by the police,
some have been anti-American with isolated
incidents of violence.

The sparsely settled Western Sahara was the site of
armed conflict between the Moroccan Government and
the Polisario Front, which demands independence. A
cease-fire has been in effect since 1991, but the
territory remains disputed between Morocco,
Algeria, and the Polisario. Negotiations to reach
a settlement resumed in 2007 under UN auspices, but
the dispute hampers development in the territory,
as well as economic and political integration in
the North Africa region.

A.13. Corruption

Morocco has a wide body of laws and regulations to
combat corruption, but it remains a problem, in
part due to the low salaries in the public sector.
Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi has made the fight
against corruption one of his key priorities. A
new anti-corruption agency was set up in 2007 but
only became operational in January 2009. Headed by
a respected senior Moroccan official who has been
active in anti-corruption efforts since the
founding of "Transparency Maroc," the agency was
created to "moralize" Moroccan public life and to
propose specific steps the government can take to
address the issue.

In spite of legislative improvements and a slight
rebound over 2006, Morocco's 89th place ranking in
Transparency International's 2010 corruption index
is well below its 2002 level, when it was in 52nd
place. According to the Index, real estate is the
sector most affected by corruption, and the
judiciary is the most corrupt public institution.
Government officials have criticized the Index,
which reflects public perceptions concerning
corruption, for not emphasizing recent anti-
corruption efforts. These include enhancing the
transparency of public tenders and implementation
of a requirement that senior government officials
declare their assets at the start and end of their
government service.

Since 2003 Morocco has taken a series of steps to
counter terrorist finance, strengthen controls
against money laundering, and conform to
international accounting and banking standards.
Comprehensive anti-money laundering legislation was
passed in 2007, and an independent Financial
Intelligence Unit became operational in 2009. The
robust legislation draws largely from
recommendations made by the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD's)
Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

B. Bilateral Investment Agreements

The U.S.-Morocco FTA was signed in June 2004 and
came into effect in January 2006, ending tariffs on
over 98 percent of the bilateral trade in consumer
and industrial goods and subsuming previous
bilateral investment agreements. For more details
on the U.S.-Morocco FTA please visit

C. OPIC and other Investment Insurance Programs

Morocco's agreement with the Overseas Private
Investment Corporation was most recently updated in
March 1995. Morocco is also a member of the
Kuwait-based Arab Investment Guarantee Organization
(OAGI) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee
Agency (MIGA). For more details please see

D. Labor

Once strong and politically influential, the
Moroccan trade union movement is now fragmented and
no longer possesses the political clout it carried
50 years ago when it helped lead the country to
independence. Nevertheless, 5 of the 24 trade
union federations retain the potential to influence
political life. Although unions claim high
membership rates, Morocco has about 600,000
unionized workers, less than six percent of the
11.26 million work force.

Moroccan labor law and practice draw from French
models. The labor code was reformed in 2004,
reducing the maximum workweek from 48 to 44 hours.
Labor codes concerning unions and the right to
strike do not cover domestic workers. Investors
continue to view labor regulations as a significant
constraint. They complain that procedures
regarding lay-offs remain complicated and onerous,
and they impose a significant financial burden on
companies. Rules regarding foreign personnel are
also vague and can lead to conflicting
interpretations and arbitrary decisions.

Morocco has ratified the International Labor
Organization (ILO) convention covering the right to
organize and bargain collectively, and any group of
eight workers can organize. Article 14 of the
Constitution gives workers the right to strike, but
no detailed law defines it. For a union to engage
in collective bargaining it must have at least 35
percent of the enterprise's workforce as registered
members. The Ministry of Interior occasionally

intervenes, especially if the Government believes
strategic interests are threatened. There are
mandatory procedures governing the settlement of
disputes, though the Government settles them on a
case-by-case basis.

The official national unemployment figure at the
end of the third quarter in 2009 was 9.0 percent
with the more meaningful urban unemployment figure
at 15.9 percent. This represented a slight
improvement over the same period in 2008. The
minimum wage is currently 2,010 MAD per month,
approximately USD 240.

E. Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports

The industrial free trade zone in Tangier has
brought foreign investment and employment to the
northern region of Morocco. The companies located
in the zone may import goods duty free and are
exempt from other taxes. Moroccan labor laws still
apply, but few, if any, firms are unionized. There
is also an offshore banking law covering Tangier.

Foreign Direct Investment Statistics

The Moroccan foreign exchange office maintains
balance of payments statistics that include annual
foreign exchange inflows for private foreign
investment. These statistics differentiate between
foreign direct investment (purchases of companies
or increases in capital), portfolio investment, and
short-term financing for current account
expenditures, e.g. lending to a subsidiary for
purchases of equipment. There are no official
statistics on the stock of foreign investment in
Morocco, but new foreign investment peaked at about
USD 4.6 billion in 2007, declining to about 3.6
billion 2008. The following tables are based on
balance of payments statistics.

Foreign Direct Investment in Morocco
(Millions of USD)

Year Total FDI Percent of GDP
1998 384.6 1.1
1999 945.6 2.7
2000 245.8 0.8
2001 2732.2 8.0
2002 534.2 1.3
2003 2430.2 4.9
2004 1070.5 1.9
2005 3007.6 5.1
2006 2962.5 4.5
2007 4629.2 6.2
2008 3608.1 4.1

Foreign Direct Investment Inflows by Country of
(Millions of USD)

Country 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

United States 50.5 25.5 98.1 188.2 108.1
France 535.6 2234.6 982.5 1740.7 1360.7
Spain 53.8 162.4 817.2 744.9 337.6
Germany 53.6 96.3 106.8 200.8 169.3
UK 51.3 50.9 105.8 314.2 156.7
Netherlands 14.2 29.3 25.8 61.5 24.3
Benelux 39.1 48.0 296.0 160.7 133.9
Saudi Arabia 39.9 40.8 37.5 77.6 65.9
Switzerland 76.3 85.4 102.9 161.6 214.3
UAE 37.3 81.9 87.9 464.6 608.5
Kuwait 2.0 25.1 115.0 192.1 14.9
Italy 30.0 23.6 38.0 105.4 99.0
Portugal 2.3 6.8 5.7 6.8 5.8
Others 84.6 97.0 143.0 210.0 309.1
Total 1070.5 3007.6 2962.5 4629.1 3608.1

N.B 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

Exchange 8.86 8.88 8.80 8.20 7.75

Rate (MAD/USD)

GDP 56.40 58.90 65.40 75.10 88.88
(Billions of USD)

Foreign direct Investment Inflows by Sector
(Millions of USD)

Sector 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Industry 202.7 308.0 1019.6 404.2 230.2
Tourism 161.5 346.9 889.6 1515.0 732.2
Real Estate 230.2 272.8 467.8 925.7 1180.9
Banking 172.1 5.0 166.3 222.4 639.9
Insurance 18.7 128.9 166.2 2.6 25.9
Commerce 69.1 49.7 118.9 41.9 23.2
Holding 3.5 23.6 16.8 103.4 285.1
Energy and Mining
37.9 42.5 11.4 343.7 202.4
Transport 4.9 36.2 6.4 333.8 22.7
Public Works 11.9 18.0 3.9 64.9 32.6
81.0 1725.2 3.1 376.5 29.7
Agriculture 3.3 0.1 2.8 4.0 3.5
Fishing 1.5 0.1 0.0 0.5 2.8
Studies 7.9 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Other Services
53.9 46.9 76.8 275.1 192.7
Other 10.4 3.5 12.8 15.6 4.4
Total 1070.5 3007.6 2962.5 4629.1 3608.2

Major Foreign Investors


Industries Marocaines Modernes
Parent company: Procter and Gamble
Sector: Soaps and toiletries
Number of employees: 500

Coca-Cola Export Corporation
Parent company: The Coca-Cola Export Corp.
Number of employees: 3,200

J.R.A. Morocco S.A.
Parent company: Jordache Enterprises Inc.
Sector: Clothing/Manufacture of jeans
Number of employees: 1,000

Delphi Automotive (former division of GM)
Sector: Auto part manufacturer
Number of employees: 4,890

Kraft Foods
Sector: Food Products
Number of employees: 60

Minco Aviation Electronics
Sector: Aviation/Hi Tech
Number of employees: 66
USD 8 million to expand existing production

Kerzner International
Parent company: Colony Capital
Sector: Tourism - Mazagan Beach Resort
Number of employees: 1,300

Emerging Capital Partners and Truffle Capital
Sector: Mining

International Paper
Sector: Packing
Number of employees: 1,500

Fruit of the Loom
Sector: Textile
Number of employees: 2,300
USD 140 Million to build new textile plant

Dell Computers
Sector: Computers/Hi Tech

Number of employees: 1,700

Sector: Packing/Transportation
Number of employees: 300
USD 40 million investment

Sector: Pharmaceutical
Number of employees: 179
USD 110 million investment to upgrade and
expand facilities

Sector: Security
Number of employees: 1500


Jorf Lasfar Energy Company
Parent company: TACA Energy (operated by CMS
Sector: Independent power project
Number of Employees: 500
USD 1.2 billion project

ST Microelectronics
Parent company: S.G.S. Thomson (France)
Sector: Electronic components and
semiconductor manufacturing
Number of employees: 1,600

Pechiney - MMA
Parent company: Pechiney (France)
Sector: Aluminum cookware manufacturing
Number of employees: 1,280

Bymaro S.A.
Parent company: Bouygues S.A. (France)
Sector: Civil engineering
Number of employees: 1,000

Renault Maroc
Parent company: Renault S.A. (France)
Sector: Motor vehicle assembly
Number of employees: 800

C.G.E. Maroc
Parent company: C.G.E. (France)
Sector: Electric cable and transformer
Number of employees: 675

Parent company: Hoechst AG (Germany)
Sector: Pharmaceutical manufacturing
Number of employees: 350


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