Morocco enjoys political stability, robust infrastructure, and a strategic location, which have contributed to its emergence as a regional manufacturing and export base for international companies. Morocco is actively encouraging and facilitating foreign investment, particularly in export sectors like manufacturing, through macro-economic policies, trade liberalization, investment incentives, and structural reforms. Morocco’s overarching economic development plan seeks to transform the country into a regional business hub by leveraging its unique status as a multilingual, cosmopolitan nation situated at the tri-regional focal point of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. In recent years, this strategy increasingly influenced Morocco’s relationship and role on the African continent. The Government of Morocco has implemented a series of strategies aimed at boosting employment, attracting foreign investment, and raising performance and output in key revenue-earning sectors, such as the automotive and aerospace industries.
Morocco attracts the fifth-most foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa, a figure that increased 23 percent in 2017. As part of a government-wide strategy to strengthen its position as an African financial hub, Morocco offers incentives for firms that locate their regional headquarters in Morocco, such as the Casablanca Finance City (CFC), Morocco’s flagship financial and business hub launched in 2010. CFC intends to open a new, 28-story skyscraper in 2019, which will eventually house all CFC members. Morocco’s return to the African Union in January 2017 and the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in March 2018 provide Morocco further opportunities to promote foreign investment and trade and accelerate economic development. In late 2018, Morocco’s long-anticipated high-speed train began service connecting Casablanca, Rabat, and the port city of Tangier. Despite the significant improvements in its business environment and infrastructure, insufficient skilled labor, weak intellectual property rights (IPR) protections, inefficient government bureaucracy, and the slow pace of regulatory reform remain challenges for Morocco.
Morocco has ratified 69 bilateral investment treaties for the promotion and protection of investments and 60 economic agreements – including with the United States and most EU nations – that aim to eliminate the double taxation of income or gains. Morocco’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States entered into force in 2006, eliminating tariffs on more than 95 percent of qualifying consumer and industrial goods. The Government of Morocco plans to phase out tariffs for a limited number of products through 2030. Since the U.S.-Morocco FTA came into effect, overall annual bilateral trade has increased by more than 250 percent, making the United States Morocco’s fourth largest trading partner. The U.S. is the second largest foreign investor in Morocco and the U.S. and Moroccan governments work closely to increase trade and investment through high-level consultations, bilateral dialogue, and the annual U.S.-Morocco Trade and Investment Forum, which provides a platform to strengthen business-to-business ties.
Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2018||73 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2019||60 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2018||76 of 126||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2017||$412||http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2017||$2,860||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
5. Protection of Property Rights
Morocco permits foreign individuals and foreign companies (i.e. companies whose share capital is owned in whole or in part by a foreign individual or company) to own land, but not agricultural land. Foreigners may acquire agricultural land in order to carry out an investment or other economic project that is not agricultural in nature, subject to first obtaining a certificate of non-agricultural use from the authorities. Morocco has a formal registration system maintained by the National Agency for Real Estate Conservation, Property Registries, and Cartography (ANCFCC), which issues titles of land ownership. Approximately 30 percent of land is registered in the formal system, and almost all of that is in urban areas. In addition to the formal registration system, there are customary documents called moulkiya issued by traditional notaries called adouls. While not providing the same level of certainty as a title, a moulkiya can provide some level of security of ownership. Morocco also recognizes prescriptive rights whereby an occupant of a land under the moulkiya system (not lands duly registered with ANCFCC) can establish ownership of that land upon fulfillment of all the legal requirements, including occupation of the land for a certain period of time (10 years if the occupant and the landlord are not related and 40 years if the occupant is a parent). There are other specific legal regimes applicable to some types of lands, among which:
- Collective lands: lands which are owned collectively by some tribes, whose members only benefit from rights of usufruct;
- Public lands: lands which are owned by the Moroccan State;
- Guich lands: lands which are owned by the Moroccan State, but whose usufruct rights are vested upon some tribes;
- Habous lands: lands which are owned by a party (the State, a certain family, a religious or charity organization, etc.) subsequent to a donation, and the usufruct rights of which are vested upon such party (usually with the obligation to allocate the proceeds to a specific use or to use the property in a certain way).
Morocco’s rating for “Registering Property” improved over the past year, with a ranking of 68 out of 190 countries worldwide in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report, 18 places higher than in 2018. According to the same report, Morocco made registering property easier by increasing the transparency of the land registry/cadaster and by streamlining administrative procedures.
Intellectual Property Rights
The Ministry of Industry, Trade, Investment, and the Digital Economy oversees the Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC), which serves as a registry for patents and trademarks in the industrial and commercial sectors. The Ministry of Communications oversees the Moroccan Copyright Office (BMDA), which registers copyrights for literary and artistic works (including software), enforces copyright protection, and coordinates with Moroccan and international partners to combat piracy. The Ministry of Communication supported the enactment of new copyright decrees on May 20, 2014, which obligate the police to work on behalf of BMDA to investigate suspected cases of copyright infringement, including the illegal selling/production of unlicensed media and illegal media use on the radio or television. Additionally, the Ministry of Communication and BMDA formed a national anti-piracy committee responsible for developing a plan for consistent action in combating copyright infringement and counterfeit goods.
In 2016, the Ministry of Communication and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) signed an MOU to expand cooperation to ensure the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) in Morocco. The MOU committed both parties to improving the judicial and operational dimensions of Morocco’s copyright enforcement. Following this MOU, in November 2016, BMDA launched WIPOCOS, a database developed by WIPO for collective management organizations or societies that aims to ensure a timely, transparent, and autonomous distribution of royalties. Despite of these positive changes, BMDA’s current focus on redefining its legal mandate and relationship with other copyright offices worldwide has appeared to lessen its enforcement capacity.
Law No. 23-13 on Intellectual Property Rights increased penalties for violation of those rights and better defines civil and criminal jurisdiction and legal remedies. It also set in motion an accreditation system for patent attorneys in order to better systematize and regulate the practice of patent law. Law No. 34-05, amending and supplementing Law No. 2-00 on Copyright and Related Rights, includes 15 items (Articles 61 to 65) devoted to punitive measures against piracy and other copyright offenses. These range from civil and criminal penalties to the seizure and destruction of seized copies. Judges’ authority in sentencing and criminal procedures is proscribed, with little power to issue harsher sentences that would serve as stronger deterrents.
OMPIC enacted a Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 to strengthen the institution’s capacity to carry out its core mandate of granting industrial and commercial property titles and enforcing IPR. This new strategic plan focuses on promoting quality, transparency, and a service-oriented organizational culture, while underscoring the important role that IPR protection has in promoting innovation under Morocco’s 2014-2020 Industrial Acceleration Plan.
Moroccan authorities appear committed to cracking down on counterfeiting but, due to resource constraints, have chosen to focus enforcement efforts on the most problematic areas, specifically areas with public safety and/or significant economic impact. In 2017, BMDA brought approximately a dozen court cases against copyright infringers and collected USD 6.1 million in copyright collections. In 2018, Morocco’s customs authorities seized USD 62.7 million worth of counterfeit items. In 2018, Morocco also created a National Customs Brigade charged with countering the illicit trafficking of counterfeit goods and narcotics.
In 2015, Morocco and the European Union concluded an agreement on the protection of Geographic Indications (GIs), which is currently pending ratification by both the Moroccan and European parliaments. Should it enter into force, the agreement would grant Moroccan GIs sui generis. The U.S. government continues to urge Morocco to undergo a transparent and substantive assessment process for the EU GIs in a manner consistent with Morocco’s existing obligations, including those under the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement.
Morocco is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.
For assistance, please refer to the U.S. Embassy local lawyers’ list ( at https://ma.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/), as well as to the regional U.S. IP Attaché at https://ma.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/.