UNITED STATES-MOROCCO FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT -- (House of Representatives - July 22, 2004)
Mr. THOMAS. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to House Resolution 738, I call up the bill (H.R. 4842) to implement the United States-Morocco Free Trade Agreement, and ask for its immediate consideration.
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Mr. CRANE. Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Pitts) for the purpose of engaging in a colloquy.
Mr. PITTS. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentleman from California (Chairman Thomas) as well for his leadership on the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement. I am a free trader and believe that free trade helps our Nation and the nations of the world. However, I am deeply concerned about the issue of Western Sahara, and I have had concerns that the U.S. needed to make clear that this free trade agreement covers only the internationally- and the U.S.-recognized borders of Morocco and does not include the disputed territory of Western Sahara. It is my understanding that the language in the conference report makes clear that the free trade agreement does not cover resources, goods, services, or any other entity related to trade that originates in Western Sahara.
I would ask the gentleman, does the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement cover trade with the disputed territory of Western Sahara?
Mr. CRANE. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. PITTS. I yield to the gentleman from Illinois.
Mr. CRANE. The Committee on Ways and Means' report states the clear coverage of the free trade agreement. "The committee notes that the FTA will cover trade with and investment in the territory of Morocco as recognized by the United States, which does not include the Western Sahara."
Mr. PITTS. I thank the chairman for that clarification.
The following is a letter from USTR making clear that we do not support Morocco's claim over the Western Sahara and the FTA does not recognize or include the Western Sahara.
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Mr. PITTS. Mr. Speaker, thank you for your leadership.
While trade is a vital component to strengthening with the greater Middle East, promoting the spread of democracy is even more so. The Sahrawi are a peaceful pro-Western, pro-democracy people. They want the international community, including the U.N. Security Council and the United States, to uphold its commitment to a free and transparent referendum for self-determination, and it is unacceptable that Morocco has been allowed to prevent that vote from taking place.
During his tenure the former Secretary of State Baker proposed a plan that both parties accepted at first, and the Moroccans accepted the plan, but as soon as the people of Western Sahara accepted they withdrew their support, and I am deeply concerned that the Moroccan government, as patterned, will use this agreement with help from friends in France and others to attempt to increase its exploitation of the resources.
I just want to clarify the statement about the people of Western Sahara. Earlier today someone said that the Sahrawis are terrorists. I take exception to this remark, as the people of Western Sahara, and like many others in North Africa and the Middle East, have actually tried to peacefully solve the conflict. The State Department does not consider the people of Western Sahara to be terrorists. It is a misstatement. It is wrong. It is unproductive in our fight against terrorism to suggest that they are, and our own State Department does not believe the people of Western Sahara are terrorists.
Secondly, I visited there. I visited the refugee camps. I know the people. They are not terrorists. Members of this House should go to the refugee camps. They should see the terrible malnutrition of the people, the lack of health care, the refugee camps. If they would visit the refugee camps they would know that the information fed to them by supporters is inaccurate.
Mr. Chairman, I am voting for the FTA because there is protection for the people and resources of Western Sahara and because I believe the free trade will help the people of Morocco and those of surrounding countries.
The following is a series of items that would make clear that this agreement should not be abused by Morocco to profit off of land that it has no legitimate claim to.