In 2013, the European Union started negotiations with Morocco concerning a free-trade deal, which represented the first EU step in developing trade ties with North African nations after a wave of Arab uprisings.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said these negotiations were the first part of a European strategy to draw North African region closer to the EU. These negotiations also included a deal to ease the procedures for obtaining visas for certain categories such as students, researchers, businessmen and women.
After Arab uprisings overthrown Arab leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, Morocco almost experienced the same destiny. However, King Mohammed VI neutralised protests in Morocco by announcing constitutional changes. He also held an election which eventually brought an Islamist-led government to the office.
Despite the uprisings, the European Council supported the idea of deep and comprehensive free-trade agreements with Morocco, Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia in 2011. Only between EU and Morocco, this trade summed roughly 24 billion euros of goods in the same year. This made EU interested to keep the trade open in the services sector.
According to the European Commission, at that time, Morocco was the largest recipient of European aid with 580.5 million euros or $760 million allocated for 2011-2013.
As it was stated by a French member of the European Parliament, Marielle De Sarnez that efficient negotiations of the free-trade agreement are critical element since they serve as a model for other countries in the southern Mediterranean and that these agreements allowed the chance for greater long-term regional integration of the Maghreb countries.’
During the time Morocco’s main exports to the EU were clothing, agricultural products and also machinery. On the other hand, the EU sold around 15 billion euros worth goods to Marocco in 2011.
Barroso also stated that Morocco had received 660 million euros in aid for economic, social and institutional development by the end of 2013.