Ambassador's Gabriel Speech
Remarks by Ambassador
U.S. Ambassador to the
Kingdom of Morocco
Morocco: Joined Though
Technology - Roundtable Exchange"
Organized by The
Moroccan-American Business Council and Massachusetts Trade Office
Great Hall, State House Boston,
Friday, May 19
This is a wonderful time
for me to be back in the United States.
The longest period of economic expansion in our history continues.
We have the lowest unemployment and inflation rates in thirty years, and
the lowest poverty rates in twenty. Since 1992, 20 million jobs have been
created in the U.S., and income inequality is decreasing.
It is also an exciting
time for me to represent the United States Government in Morocco, an old
friend of America that is experiencing its own dramatic and positive
changes. Morocco is more in the news these days because of its new dynamic
and progressive King, its world-class athletes in track, soccer, and
tennis, and because it has become one of the world's hottest tourist
destinations. But what is most exciting to me is Morocco's political and
In my view, American
values and interests require us to remain close partners with Morocco as
it embarks upon its promising course of reform. As President Clinton said
recently in his speech before the World Economic forum in Davos, developed
countries have the responsibility to help developing countries like
Morocco succeed in the new global economy. In the President's words,
"growth is at the center of [globalization]. .. It gives people hope
every day, but the economics must be blended with other legitimate human
concerns. We can do it - not by going back to the past, but by going
together into the future."
Let me be more specific.
I want, first of all, to describe the current political and economic
reforms in Morocco, and then outline what the United States Government can
do to assist our Moroccan friends.
Our friendship began in
1777 when Morocco recognized America's Independence. The treaty of
friendship signed in 1787 is our longest continuous treaty in force in the
world today. Morocco fought with allied troops in World War II, Desert
Storm and Somalia, and now stands by our side in peacekeeping missions in
Bosnia and Kosovo. The late King Hassan II was a voice of moderation for
peace in the Middle East and a strong ally of the West throughout the Cold
Since ascending the
throne last July, the new King Mohamed VI has created new hope for his
people. He has sustained and strengthened a series of bold political
reforms initiated by his late father.
Since 1998, the country has been governed by an opposition
government, which Moroccans call “an alternative government.” This is an elegant phrase to
describe the astonishing fact that Abderrahmane el-Youssoufi - a man who
spent time in jail and in exile for his activities as an opposition
politician - now serves as Prime Minister. The King and his government
have embarked upon the most significant political liberalization
experiment in the Arab world today. They are addressing outstanding human
rights issues, and they have begun a process of decentralizing power and
empowering civil society. Freedoms of speech, press, and assembly have
been greatly expanded. Judicial reforms promise the creation a society
governed by the rule of law.
King Mohamed has opened
up the Moroccan economy with the same determination, focussing on
transparency, anti-corruption, good governance, and proposals to reduce
government bureaucracy. This new focus on transparency has paid off.
Morocco obtained the highest license fee ever paid to a developing country
for a mobile phone license. Having adapted IMF and World Bank reforms, the
government has stabilized its macro-economic position so well that it has
obtained the same strict budgetary standards imposed on members of the
European Monetary Union. The King has also directed his government to
identify and remove all remaining barriers to private investment to raise
the GDP through the creation of private sector jobs. He has attacked old
taboos, such as the inequality of women and the disparity between the rich
and the poor.
As President Clinton
remarked at Davos, we should reward countries that take the chances to
build a better future for their people through democratic and open market
initiatives. We do not wish to see this bold experiment fail.
Morocco, there is no margin for error.
Fifty percent of its budget is dedicated to current expenditures.
The public wage bill alone is 12 percent of GDP, or over a third of the
state budget. Another 35
percent of the budget is allocated to debt service, thus leaving little
room to address social development or infrastructure needs. Such budgetary
restrictions are devastating for a country with fifty percent illiteracy,
over twenty percent unemployment in urban areas, and inadequate
infrastructure. The Government of Morocco has correctly determined that
the long-term solution to its economic and financial problems is increased
private sector investment to create jobs and double the growth rate.
Debt relief can give the
immediate boost Morocco needs by allowing the government to spend less on
debt service and more on its people. The United States has joined other
developing countries in advocating debt relief to those poorest countries
undertaking significant political reform and economic liberalization.
Morocco clearly qualifies by these standards, except that it is not in the
ranks of the poorest nations. With a per capita income of $1300 it falls
into the category of lower-middle income countries.
I am proud of U.S.
support in the September 1999 meeting of the Paris Club for the proposal
to raise the ceiling on Morocco's debt equity swaps from twenty to thirty
percent of eligible debt.
countries have offered Morocco additional debt relief. France and Spain,
in particular, are swapping Morocco's debt at a discount for their
companies to use as investment capital. These policies not only
significantly redirect resources in the Moroccan budget to productive use
but they also provide European investors with competitive advantages.
Debt-equity, not only in
Morocco but also in other developing countries, could provide a way to
increase U.S. foreign trade and investment in developing countries while
simultaneously helping them reduce their burdensome debt levels.
Assisting countries like
Morocco in facing the challenges and reaping the benefits of globalization
is in the enlightened self-interest of the United States and all
industrialized nations. The more integrated the global economy, the more
opportunity there is for everyone. The more integrated a country is in the
global economy, the more prosperous and stable it is. These are goals
which all nations share.
Morocco is beginning to
see the benefits of political and economic reforms when a business climate
is increasingly transparent. Michigan’s
CMS Energy, with its joint venture partner ABB, won the concession for the
Jorf Lasfar Power Plant – a $1.2 billion investment – through a tender
managed by the National Office of Electricity. The operating company is providing
more efficient output, has initiated higher environmental standards, and
has made extensive contributions to the community of Jorf Lasfar and El
Jadida – just south of Casablanca.
I feel strongly that
there are many opportunities in Morocco for American expertise and
know-how, that it’s necessary to get the word out. Many people think
Morocco is half-a-world away. In fact, it is two hours closer by plane
than Paris or Rome. The country’s strategic location makes it an ideal
export platform to Europe, the Middle East and other points in Africa.
Moreover, Morocco is blessed with beaches, deserts, mountains and palm
oases, making it a year-round tourist paradise.
We have identified 20
projects in Morocco that should be of interest to American investors in
the areas of agribusiness, manufacturing, tourism, infrastructure,
industrial parks and financial services. The 20 projects will be marketed
by the Morocco-U.S. Council on Trade and Investment in the U.S. this June.
The project sponsors will participate in one-on-one meetings in New York,
Chicago and San Francisco. I think that when U.S. investors see the wealth
and variety of opportunities in Morocco, they will see that Morocco’s
time has come.
America and its Western
allies have a very unique chance to help an old friend, and demonstrate
that we mean what we say when we promise to help countries with the
courage to seek democracy, freedom, and free markets.
I am confident that
Morocco’s future is very bright. My optimism is based on two fundamental
First, Morocco can count
on the full support of its friends. As
the late King Hassan told me just days before his death, U.S.-Moroccan
relations are the best they’ve been since the days of John F. Kennedy.
The truth of these remarks came to full light by the end of that same week
when President Clinton headed a large delegation of present and former
American officials who came to Rabat on a moment’s notice to pay their
last respects to the monarch. When the President then took the
extraordinary decision to march miles in an open funeral procession in
front of more than a million bystanders, the response of the Moroccan
public was ecstatic.
Such public displays of
friendship are dramatic, but U.S.-Moroccan ties are in fact based on much
more than pageantry. This friendship is based upon a new bilateral
partnership, based on mutual respect and common interests. We share a
vision of democratic, prosperous, and stable Morocco. We both want to
strengthen our participation in world markets through open trade and
investment flows. We both seek to improve social equity and equal
opportunity as a necessary condition for the development and stability of
the region. We are both concerned about terrorism and other global issues
facing our two countries.
Morocco enjoys the
support of its friends but other factors will also guide its destiny.
Let me say in conclusion
that my second reason for optimism over Morocco’s future stems from the
deliberate choice Morocco has made for democratic reform and good
governance. In the final analysis, these are the best tools available to
correct social and economic imbalances.
A society that enjoys freedom of individual expression and nurtures
the growth of voluntary civil associations, which are hallmarks of
current-day Morocco, will not fail to find the best solutions to its
For America, it would be
a tragic chapter in our history if we missed this opportunity to be
helpful to our oldest friend. George Washington promised such friendship
more than two hundred years ago when he asked the Moroccan King Mohamed
III for help in protecting American ships against the Barbary pirates. Washington wrote:
territories there are no mines of either gold or silver, and this young
Nation, just recovering from the waste and destruction of long war, has
not, as yet, had time to acquire riches by agriculture and commerce. ...
But we have reason to flatter ourselves that we shall gradually become
useful to our friends."
Now, making a liar out
of George Washington would indeed be tragic!