US State Department (Washington, DC, Dec. 4, 2012) — Good morning! I’m Jose Fernandez, and I’m the Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs at the Department of State. It is my great pleasure to be here today and to see such a large and diverse audience.
I want to thank all of you – especially our Moroccan guests – for being here today. I also want to acknowledge our panelists and moderators, who have put substantial time and thought into their sessions. We are honored today to have a high-level delegation from the Government of Morocco: Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Aziz Akhannouch; Minister-Delegate to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Youssef Amrani; and my good friend, Ambassador Rachad Bouhlal. Minister of Industry, Trade, and New Technologies Abdelkader Aamara cannot attend today’s conference, but I am told he will join the delegation this evening.
Friendship between the United States and Morocco is as old as the United States itself! One of the products of our close and enduring friendship is strong economic ties that were further bolstered by the implementation of the free trade agreement in 2006. The free trade agreement is the cornerstone of our commercial relations, and it has substantially increased trade in both directions. We believe that that our business ties are a hallmark of a longstanding, mature friendship.
Morocco’s ambitious solar energy program, to cite one example, has benefited from U.S. support through vehicles such as the World Bank and the Clean Technology Fund. It has also attracted much interest among U.S. companies, who are leaders in this sector. We hope that our private sector companies will play a growing role in developing Morocco’s energy infrastructure in the future.
And, this year Morocco celebrates the 6th anniversary of its Intellectual Property Act, and the U.S. is proud of the role it has played in supporting this significant achievement. The U.S. stands together with Morocco in this global effort to protect intellectual property and the prosperity that comes with it.
The United States also seeks to promote growth in North Africa through increasing regional integration and expanding trade relations. To that end, the State Department has established a partnership with the Aspen Institute called “Partners for a New Beginning- the North African Partnership for Economic Opportunity,” or “PNB-NAPEO.” PNB-NAPEO focuses on youth training, job creation, and entrepreneurship and its achievements include creating a U.S.-Maghreb networking platform; sponsoring innovation; training young entrepreneurs; and connecting U.S. and Maghreb educational institutions.
Finally, the U.S. currently chairs the Deauville Partnership launched by the G8 in 2011 to support the democratic transition in the Middle East and North Africa. We care deeply about the success of the democratic transitions in the region, and are actively engaged in supporting them through initiatives to foster economic stability, job creation, regional integration, and political participation. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with countries such as Morocco to further advance the goals of the Deauville Partnership.
We are committed to expanding these programs and looking for creative new initiatives to foster prosperity in the Maghreb and at home. But we cannot do it without the active participation of the private sector, which is why we are thrilled to see such great turn-out and look forward to your invaluable contribution to the dialogue today.