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Morocco Introduction

Formal Name: Kingdom of Morocco (Al Mamlakah al Maghribiyah).

Short Form: Morocco.

Term for Citizen(s): Moroccan(s).

Capital: Rabat.

Major Cities: Morocco's most populous cities, in order of their population as of 2002, are Casablanca (3,454,000), Sal (849,000), Rabat (668,000), Marrakech (653,000), Fs (643,000), Kenitra (581,000), and Tangier (509,000).

Independence: Morocco achieved independence from France on March 2, 1956.

Public Holidays: New Year's Day (January 1), Independence Manifesto (January 11), Labor Day (May 1), Throne Day (July 30), Allegiance of Wadi-Eddahab (August 14), Anniversary of the King's and People's Revolution (August 20), Young People's Day (August 21), Anniversary of the Green March (November 6), Independence Day (November 18), and Muslim holidays, the dates of which vary from year to year according to the Islamic calendar.

Flag: Morocco's flag consists of a red field centered by a five-pointed green star.

Morocco is among the most stable of countries. A state with a 1,200-year history as an independent national entity, the North African kingdom has been led since 1666 by the 1,400-year-old Alawite Dynasty. Viewed on another level, Morocco's stability is more tenuous. Since its independence from French and Spanish domination in 1956, Morocco has had to cope with a wide range of situations that have threatened national security.

Morocco is located in North Africa, bordering the North Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean sea, between Algeria and the Western Sahara. Although it is one-fifth the size of Algeria with a total area of 446,550 kms, its estimated population of 30,645,305 (July, 2001, est.) is more or less the same as its neighbor. Moroccans are ethnically Arab and/or Berber, 98.7 percent Sunni Muslim, with a small local Jewish minority accounting for .02 percent of population. Arabic is the official language, but Berber dialects are spoken, and French is often the language of business and diplomacy.

Morocco became independent from France in 1956, and has had a constitutional monarchy since then. Mohammed V who took over the kingdom in 1956 died in 1962 and was replaced by his son Hassan II, who ruled until 1999. At his death, Mohamed VI his eldest son became king. Morocco has a multiparty system with a bicameral parliament which consists of an upper house or Chamber of Counselors, elected indirectly by local councils, labor syndicates and professional associations for a nine year term, and a lower house or Chamber of Representatives elected by popular votes for a five year term.

While 15 percent of Morocco's GDP comes from agriculture, 33 per cent from industry, and 52 percent from services, 50 percent of its labor force works in agriculture, 35 percent in industry and only 15 percent in services. It is one of the richest country in phosphates which it has exported for decades to the rest of the world. Its main trading partners are the countries of the European Union with which it has signed a bilateral agreement on lifting trade barriers. Morocco claims and administers the Western Sahara, but sovereignty of this area is still unresolved.

Morocco has a stable political environment, an advanced privatization program, prudent fiscal policies, and a low inflation rate. Morocco is the United States' oldest friend in the region and is today recognized as a major non-NATO ally. Under the leadership of King Mohammed VI, this stable, moderate Arab nation has launched itself on a path toward democratic participation in governance. Its steady pace is emblematic of a liberalizing nation committed to meeting the needs of its people while recognizing the value of stability in this corner of an unstable region.

Morocco, however, still faces many complex challenges, including persistent unemployment and inadequate access to housing, land, credit, and other productive resources. Poverty and illiteracy remain common, especially among women and female-headed households. Since 1957, the U.S. government and the Government of Morocco have worked together to make real and substantial improvements in the lives of Moroccan citizens. While much work remains to be done, the U.S.-Moroccan partnership has yielded positive results with the mutual goal of building a democratic, well-governed, and economically sound Morocco.

Strategically located along the Strait of Gibraltar just a seven-hour flight from JFK and three hours from Paris, Morocco is seen more and more as a regional hub in North Africa for transportation and business. Morocco's moderate Mediterranean climate on 2,750 miles (3,500 km) of coastline and its developing infrastructure make it an attractive location for business and leisure. Morocco's Association Agreement and Advanced Status with the European Union (EU) have spurred manufacturing development in Morocco, an activity that has also been heightened by the FTA. Morocco will rely on these key trade agreements to stimulate economic growth and to foster the job creation necessary to facilitate social and educational reform.




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