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|The Revival of the Maghreban Union||| Print ||
The Revival of the Maghreban UnionWith regard to America's seriousness in reviving the Maghreban Union, there exists a genuine determination by America to revive this union between Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania, then add Libya to it. There exists also talk of the possibility that Egypt might join the union at a later date. The United States prefers to deal with economic blocs, which represent huge markets, so that such markets could attract the attention of the American companies and investors. This was expressed by Stuart Eizenstat, the architect of the initiative aimed at promoting the U.S.-North African economic partnership, commonly known as the Eizenstat initiative, during the conference organised by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency [TDA], held in Washington on 16th November 2000. He said: "Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia put together represent a market of 80 million people, with a 137 billion dollars GDP. There are many opportunities of trade in the agricultural sector, the service industry, regional tourism and the energy sector." For his part, the American ambassador to Morocco, Edward Gabriel, stated in an interview held on the periphery of the conference in question, on 16th November 2000: "The Eizenstat initiative seeks to encourage intra-regional trade. The borders must come down to facilitate trade with each other and they must become more integrated because they'll be more powerful in terms of what they have to offer and attract from the United States." He added: "they have to have an "America strategy" to seek out U.S. trade and investment. Related to that, they have to create a common market for the Maghreb region. For American businesses, a market of 80 or 90 million people is more interesting than a market of just 10 million in Tunisia, or 30 million in Algeria or Morocco. They need to have an "America strategy" for building a common market for North Africa." He added: "Remember, the Maghreb, because of its Free Trade Agreements with Europe and other countries in Africa and the Middle East, can potentially become a platform for U.S. industry going into Europe, the Middle East and Africa. So, it's not just a market for 70 million people in the Maghreb, but rather a market of nearly 500 million people."
These statements by both Eizenstat and Gabriel indicate the importance of reviving the Maghreban Union as far as the American interests are concerned. Therefore, America is serious about its resurrection. There are no political impediments because the states of the regions are in agreement over this. They however need to remove some obstacles that are still lingering, such as the conflict between Morocco and Algeria, caused by the Western Sahara crisis. This issue is on its way to being solved. The solution will be by weakening the Polisario so that it may yield to the will of Morocco, namely to make the Sahara part of Moroccan kingdom and grant it a self-rule, but not full independence. The weakening of the Polisario Front depends on the reshaping of the political system in Algeria. This entails preventing the army from interfering in ruling matters, for the Algerian army is the main sponsor of the Polisario Front; under the pretext that Morocco supports the Islamic movements in Algeria. Bouteflika has already taken huge steps towards the marginalisation of the army in ruling matters, through the national amnesty initiative and the removal of many officers who oppose his policy. Bouteflika has recently formed a national committee to review the civilian apparatuses of the state and to draft a host of new laws in order to consolidate the authority of the government. He excluded the army from partaking in this committee. The evidence indicating that matters are proceeding towards settling the issue of the Western Sahara is reflected in what L'Expression newspaper published on 6th December 2000, quoting a government source as saying: "What was written about the differences between president Bouteflika and the army over the Western Sahara is unfounded."
On the other hand, the states of the Maghreban Union are yet to complete the economic reforms that would pave the way for the union, to become a huge market for America.
As for the fact that Morocco is proceeding with America, in addition to what the Party had already mentioned on this issue, U.S. companies have won contracts for projects worth three or four billion dollars. One is the Jorf Lasfar energy project with CMS Energy -- a $1.5 billion project. CMS Energy was chosen over a French bidder. Furthermore, Boeing Aircraft was awarded a contract for 22 new all-Boeing jets ordered by Royal Air Maroc. The United States ambassador to Morocco, Gabriel said: "Boeing won this contract despite a very strong French lobby."
There is also a cellular telephone project worth 1.8 billion dollars, in addition to the investment in the recently discovered Moroccan oil. The extraction was offered to an American oil company. It is worth mentioning that the projects that are already underway in Morocco, such as the Jorf Lasfar and the cellular telephone projects, have been financed by consortia of private banking and multilateral banking institutions, such as Bank of America, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation and other multilateral banking institutions.
14th Ramadhan 1421