2010 Investment Climate Statement - Morocco
Openness to Foreign Investment
Morocco actively encourages foreign investment and has sought to facilitate it through 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 of 200 million MAD (USD 26 million) are, in addition, referred to a special ministerial committee chaired by the Prime Minister. In 2009, the Commission approved 56 projects totaling more than USD 800 Million.
Morcco's 1995 Investment Charter applies to both foreign and Moroccan investors, with foreign exchange provisions favoring foreign investors. Foreign investment is permitted in nearly every sector. The world's largest phosphate producer, 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 berries.
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
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 salaries.
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 licenses.
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.
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.
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 rulings.
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.
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 employment.
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 months.
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.
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."
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 years.
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 circumstances.
Efficient Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
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 transparency.
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 Morocco.
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.
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 reports.
SOEs compete with private firms under the same terms and conditions.
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.
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.
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).
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 www.moroccousafta.com
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 www.opic.gov
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.
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)
|Percent of GDP
Foreign Direct Investment Inflows by Country of
(Millions of USD)
|Exchange Rate (MAD/USD)
|GDP(Billions of USD)
Foreign direct Investment Inflows by Sector
(Millions of USD)
|Energy and Mining
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
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
Parent company: Colony Capital
Sector: Tourism - Mazagan Beach Resort
Number of employees: 1,300
Emerging Capital Partners and Truffle Capital
Number of employees: 1,500
Fruit of the Loom
Number of employees: 2,300
USD 140 Million to build new textile plant
Sector: Computers/Hi Tech
Number of employees: 1,700
Number of employees: 300
USD 40 million investment
Number of employees: 179
USD 110 million investment to upgrade and
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
Parent company: S.G.S. Thomson (France)
Sector: Electronic components and
Number of employees: 1,600
Pechiney - MMA
Parent company: Pechiney (France)
Sector: Aluminum cookware manufacturing
Number of employees: 1,280
Parent company: Bouygues S.A. (France)
Sector: Civil engineering
Number of employees: 1,000
Parent company: Renault S.A. (France)
Sector: Motor vehicle assembly
Number of employees: 800
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