Wikileaks - XLI

Friday, 02 September, Year 3 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu
    "51658","2/3/2006 10:18","06RABAT177","Embassy Rabat","CONFIDENTIAL","05RABAT563|06RABAT132","VZCZCXYZ0000

    DE RUEHRB #0177/01 0341018ZNY CCCCC ZZHR 031018Z FEB 06
    ","C O N F I D E N T I A L RABAT 000177



    E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/27/2011

    REF: A. RABAT 132 B. 05 RABAT 563

    Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Wayne Bush for reasons 1.4 (b),

1. (C) SUMMARY: As part of a January 24-26 visit to Morocco, Codel Duncan met with Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs Taieb Fassi Fihri and toured the Port of Casablanca on January 25. Fassi Fihri underscored Morocco\'s desire for fostering dialogue with the U.S. Congress and, by extension, the American people. He emphasized that the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which took effect on January 1, 2006, is not just a trade agreement but also a platform upon which Morocco will construct a business-friendly environment for U.S. investors. He highlighted the Tanger-Med port under construction in northern Morocco as one element of a new, modern Morocco. As reported Ref A, Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL) conveyed to Fassi Fihri U.S. concerns about Iran\'s development of nuclear capability. The Deputy Chief of Mission hosted a reception in honor of the delegation; several Moroccan parliamentarians, human rights activists, and various GOM officials attended. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Congressman John Duncan (R-TN) led a congressional delegation representing the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to Morocco on January 24-26. Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN), Congressman Henry Brown (R-SC), Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL), and congressional staff accompanied Congressman Duncan to official meetings during the visit. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Director for Multilateral Affairs Mohamed Loulichki, former Moroccan DCM in Washington Mohamed Ariad, Advisor to the Deputy FM Abdelmounaim Farrouk, MFA North American Affairs Division Chief Wassane Zailachi, and MFA United States Desk Officer Alaaddine Benhadi attended the delegation\'s January 25 meeting with Fassi Fihri. The DCM joined the Codel in the Fassi Fihri meeting.

Morocco Wants Dialogue with Congress
3. (SBU) Following a Country Team briefing led by Ambassador Riley, Codel Duncan met with Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs Taieb Fassi Fihri. Welcoming the Codel to the MFA on January 25, Fassi Fihri said he was grateful for the delegation\'s visit to Morocco. The MFA wants a dialogue with the U.S. Congress and seeks more knowledge about the American people by listening to and learning from their elected representatives. U.S.-Moroccan relations are strong and feature a new framework for cooperation, which began during the Clinton Administration and has continued under President Bush. The axes of U.S.-Moroccan relations include security cooperation, political dialogue, and economic ties, most notably via the FTA, which took effect on January 1, 2006. Morocco is \"proud\" of its designation as a Major Non-Nato Ally, added Fassi Fihri, and has undertaken to modernize its infrastructure to appeal to U.S. investors seeking U.S. standards of quality.

Codel Grateful for Strong Relations
4. (SBU) Congressman John Duncan (R-TN) thanked Fassi Fihri for receiving the delegation on such short notice and noted that he had the pleasure of leading a congressional delegation to Morocco in 2004. He said he was pleased that the FTA passed by a \"large margin\" in Congress and commented that the agreement constitutes a gesture of friendship with Morocco. Speaking in fluent French, Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN) acknowledged the long history of friendly relations between the U.S. and Morocco, which, he noted, is a crossroads of civilizations, languages, cultures, and commerce. He said that the United States should lean on its friendship with Morocco to better understand the Arab and Islamic world.

5. (SBU) Congressman Oberstar noted that he has always been impressed with Morocco\'s strong diplomatic corps in Washington, which by reaching out to Congress, has demonstrated a high degree of sophistication. Loulichki remarked that the MFA regularly instructs its Washington embassy to meet with Congress; the Moroccan ambassador should also be venturing into the American heartland and visiting with Members of Congress in their constituencies, Loulichki said, but opportunities for such visits are constrained by the embassy\'s small size.

Bullish on the FTA
6. (C) Fassi Fihri said that for Morocco the FTA is not just a trade agreement; it is a part of the platform upon which Morocco will work to ensure a \"good environment for business.\" Other elements of this platform include anti-corruption, investor guarantees, judicial reform, and diversification of Morocco\'s external trade, 65 percent of which is with Europe. Fassi Fihri noted that China has emerged as a big competitor to Morocco but \"does not always play by the same rules.\" He said that Morocco looks to the United States for technology, investment, and know-how. Morocco wants to export a \"modern\" product -- whether it be fish, textiles or agricultural products -- through modern ports, according to Fassi Fihri.

Tanger-Med Part of Larger Development Plan
7. (SBU) In addition to modernizing 3 or 4 important ports along the Atlantic coast, Morocco is also constructing a new port, Tanger-Med, located on the Moroccan side of the Straits of Gibraltar, said Fassi Fihri. The new port will generate increased economic activity in the north, which, he explained, has been marginalized since Moroccan independence in 1956. Fassi Fihri remarked that King Mohammed was in the north at the moment to ensure that \"things go the right way.\" Congressman Oberstar stressed the importance of intermodalism and noted that the Tanger-Med project presents a great opportunity for Morocco. Fassi Fihri said that Tanger-Med is an integrated project featuring railway and highway connections. Morocco has closed the existing port in Tangiers because it is located downtown and next to the city\'s beaches, commented Fassi Fihri. He emphasized that the Tanger-Med port is just one element of Morocco\'s broader program to build infrastructure and expand commercial development. The focus is shifting to job creation and education. For this reason, the King\'s National Human Development Initiative is the country\'s most important policy over the next 10 years. With parliamentary elections looming in 2007, observed Fassi Fihri, there is pressure on the government to act and deliver.

Visit to Casablanca Port
8. (SBU) The delegation visited the Port of Casablanca on January 25. Port Commandant M\'hammed Atmani received the delegation and gave them a narrated tour of the port facility. Atmani demonstrated the operation of the port\'s cargo scanners, showing how cargo is physically scanned, and explaining the results that appeared on the screen. Questions from members focused on the capacity of the port, speed with which cargo is loaded and unloaded, and the infrastructure and regulatory improvements the GOM has made to meet the International Maritime Organization\'s International Ship and Port Facility Code (ISPS) requirements (ref B). Codel Duncan noted the physical improvements made, but agreed with Atmani\'s assessment that the port\'s identification and access control system need refining.

Biographic Note
9. (SBU) Ambassador Loulichki has worked for the MFA for 30 years, including 6 years as legal advisor to Morocco\'s Mission to the UN and 3 years as Deputy PermRep in New York. Loulichki left Morocco on January 28, 2006 for an assignment as Morocco\'s PermRep to the UN Mission in Geneva. Ambassador Loulichki has two children. He speaks fluent English.

10. (U) Codel Duncan did not have the opportunity to clear this message. Visit Embassy Rabat\'s Classified Website;

Category: Breaking News
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