The agreement between the EU and Morocco to extend the tariff preferences of the Association Agreement to the productions of the Sahara is now in force. This follows the publication in the Official Journal of the European Union on Wednesday of Decision (EU) 2019/217 of the Council of 28 January 2019, which serves to approve the modification of Protocols 1 and 4 of the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement.
Point 1 of the Agreement says that "products originating in Western Sahara subject to the control of the customs authorities of the Kingdom of Morocco shall benefit from the same commercial preferences as those granted by the EU to the products covered by the Association Agreement." Point 2 explains that the origin of the products will be determined based on the provisions of Protocol 4, now modified, and Point 3 concludes that the customs authorities of the Member States of the EU and the Kingdom of Morocco will be responsible for guaranteeing the agreement's enforcement.
This new agreement validates a practice that already existed since the entry into force of the Association Protocol, as the Commission itself explains in the text published last week. "Since the entry into force of the Association Agreement, products coming from Western Sahara and with a Moroccan certificate of origin have been imported into the Union under the tariff preferences foreseen by the applicable provisions of said Agreement."
However, the ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU of December 2016 rejected this practice, considering that the Sahara was not part of the scope of application of the Association agreement. Thus, since 2017, the Commission had been negotiating with Morocco to "establish a legal basis to grant the tariff preferences provided for in the Association Agreement to products originating in Western Sahara."
The Commission considers that "although the effects of tariff advantages on employment, human rights and the exploitation of human resources are very difficult to estimate," it considers that "extending the tariff preferences to products of the Western Sahara will promote favorable investment conditions and contribute to the development of local employment. The lack of these tariff preferences would significantly affect the exports from Western Sahara, particularly those of fish and agricultural products."
For FEPEX, the extension of the concessions to Western Sahara, which in fact were already being applied, will exacerbate the negative impact that Moroccan exports are having on the Spanish fruit and vegetable sector; therefore, it considers it essential for the European Commission to carry out a social and economic impact study, given the overlap with the campaigns of certain Spanish regions.