Morocco

3. Legal Regime

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament and a mixed legal system of civil law based primarily on French law, with some influences from Islamic law. Legislative acts are subject to judicial review by the Constitutional Court excluding royal decrees (Dahirs) issued by the King, which have the force of law. Legislative power in Morocco is vested in both the government and the two chambers of Parliament, the Chamber of Representatives (Majlis Al-Nuwab) and the Chamber of Councilors (Majlis Al Mustashareen). The principal sources of commercial legislation in Morocco are the Code of Obligations and Contracts of 1913 and Law No. 15-95 establishing the Commercial Code. The Competition Council and the National Authority for Detecting, Preventing, and Fighting Corruption (INPPLC) have responsibility for improving public governance and advocating for further market liberalization. All levels of regulations exist (local, state, national, and supra-national). The most relevant regulations for foreign businesses depend on the sector in question. Ministries develop their own regulations and draft laws, including those related to investment, through their administrative departments, with approval by the respective minister. Each regulation and draft law is made available for public comment. Key regulatory actions are published in their entirety in Arabic and usually French in the official bulletin on the  website   of the General Secretariat of the Government. Once published, the law is final. Public enterprises and establishments can adopt their own specific regulations provided they comply with regulations regarding competition and transparency.

Morocco’s regulatory enforcement mechanisms depend on the sector in question; enforcement is legally reviewable, and made publicly available via the different agencies’ websites. The National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT), for example, is the public body responsible for the control and regulation of the telecommunications sector. The agency regulates telecommunications by participating in the development of the legislative and regulatory framework. Morocco does not have specific regulatory impact assessment guidelines, nor are impact assessments required by law. Morocco does not have a specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by other individual agencies or government bodies.

The U.S. Mission is not aware of any informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations. The Moroccan Ministry of Finance  posts quarterly statistics    (compiled in accordance with IMF recommendations) on public finance and debt on their website. A  report on public debt  is published on the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s website and is used as part of the budget bill formulation and voting processes. The fiscal year 2022 debt report was published on December 20, 2021.

Morocco joined the WTO in 1995 and reports technical regulations that could affect trade with other member countries to the WTO. Morocco is a signatory to the  Trade Facilitation Agreement   and has a 91.2 percent implementation rate of TFA requirements. European standards are widely referenced in Morocco’s regulatory system. In some cases, U.S. or international standards, guidelines, and recommendations are also accepted.

The Moroccan legal system is a hybrid of civil law (French system) and some Islamic law, regulated by the Decree of Obligations and Contracts of 1913 as amended, the 1996 Code of Commerce, and Law No. 53-95 on Commercial Courts. These courts also have sole competence to entertain industrial property disputes, as provided for in Law No. 17-97 on the Protection of Industrial Property, irrespective of the legal status of the parties. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s 2015 Morocco Commercial Law Assessment Report , Royal Decree No. 1-97-65 (1997) established commercial court jurisdiction over commercial cases including insolvency. Although this led to some improvement in the handling of commercial disputes, the lack of training for judges on general commercial matters remains a key challenge to effective commercial dispute resolution in the country. In general, litigation procedures are time consuming and resource-intensive, and there is no legal requirement with respect to case publishing. Disputes may be brought before one of eight Commercial Courts located in Morocco’s main cities and one of three Commercial Courts of Appeal located in Casablanca, Fes, and Marrakech. There are other special courts such as the Military and Administrative Courts. Title VII of the Constitution provides that the judiciary shall be independent from the legislative and executive branches of government. The 2011 Constitution also authorized the creation of the Supreme Judicial Council, headed by the King, which has the authority to hire, dismiss, and promote judges. Enforcement actions are appealable at the Courts of Appeal, which hear appeals against decisions from the court of first instance.

The principal source of investment legislation in Morocco is Law No. 18-95 that established the 1995 Investment Charter. An updated Investment charter is under development and is expected to go into effect in 2022 Morocco’s CRIs and AMDIE provide users with investment-related information on laws and regulations, both general and specific to various industry sectors and geographic jurisdictions along with procedural information, calls for tenders, and additional resources for business creation. Each CRI hosts a website that is meant to act as an entry point to their “one-stop-shop” services that guide investors through the investment process. These websites have improved significantly and are regularly updated.

Morocco’s Competition Law No. 06-99 on Free Pricing and Competition outlines the authority of the  Competition Council   as an independent executive body with investigatory powers. Together with the INPPLC, the Competition Council is one of the main actors charged with improving public governance and advocating for further market liberalization. Law No. 20-13, adopted on August 7, 2014, amended the powers of the Competition Council to bring them in line with the 2011 Constitution. The Competition Council’s responsibilities include making decisions on anti-competition practices and controlling concentrations, with powers of investigation and sanction; providing opinions in official consultations by government authorities; and publishing reviews and studies on the state of competition. In January 2022, the Competition Council published a legal compliance guide , in partnership with the Moroccan Employers Association, to provide additional guidance for companies and professional organizations in establishing a competition law compliance program. In February 2022, Tangier-based Moroccan Association of Transport and Logistics (AMTL), a labor union, called on transport professionals to raise transport fees by 20 percent, citing the rise in diesel prices. Soon after, Morocco’s Competition Council announced an investigation. Under Morocco’s liberal market laws, prices are determined according to offer and demand principles, and no single entity holds the right to fix market prices. At the same time that the AMTL issued the memo, Morocco’s government stepped into open dialogue with labor unions, causing the AMTL to retract their memo.

Following reported mishandling of an investigation into the alleged collusion by oil distribution companies in 2020, King Mohammed VI convened an ad hoc committee to investigate the Competition Council’s dysfunctions. In March 2021, the king appointed a new council president, and parliament adopted a new bill strengthening the Competition Council by improving its legal framework and increasing transparency.

Expropriation may only occur in the public interest for public use by a state entity, although in the past, private entities that are public service “concessionaires,” mixed economy companies, or general interest companies have also been granted expropriation rights. Article 3 of Law No. 7-81 (May 1982) on expropriation, the associated Royal Decree of May 6, 1982, and Decree No. 2-82-328 of April 16, 1983, regulate government authority to expropriate property. The process of expropriation has two phases: in the administrative phase, the State declares public interest in expropriating specific land and verifies ownership, titles, and appraised value of the land. If the State and owner can come to agreement on the value, the expropriation is complete. If the owner appeals, the judicial phase begins, whereby the property is taken, a judge oversees the transfer of the property, and payment compensation is made to the owner based on the judgment. The U.S. Mission is not aware of any recent, confirmed instances of private property being expropriated for other than public purposes (eminent domain), or in a manner that is discriminatory or not in accordance with established principles of international law.

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Morocco is a member of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and signed its convention in June 1967. Morocco is a party to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Law No. 08-05 provides for enforcement of awards made under these conventions.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Morocco is signatory to over 70 bilateral treaties recognizing binding international arbitration of trade disputes, including one with the United States. Law No. 08-05 established a system of conventional arbitration and mediation, while allowing parties to apply the Code of Civil Procedure in their dispute resolution. Foreign investors commonly rely on international arbitration to resolve contractual disputes. Commercial courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitration awards. Generally, investor rights are backed by a transparent, impartial procedure for dispute settlement. There have been no claims brought by foreign investors under the investment chapter of the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement since it came into effect in 2006. The U.S. Mission is not aware of any investment disputes over the last year involving U.S. investors.

Morocco officially recognizes foreign arbitration awards issued against the government. Domestic arbitration awards are also enforceable subject to an enforcement order issued by the President of the Commercial Court, who verifies that no elements of the award violate public order or the defense rights of the parties. As Morocco is a member of the New York Convention, international awards are also enforceable in accordance with the provisions of the convention. Morocco is also a member of the Washington Convention for the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and as such agrees to enforce and uphold ICSID arbitral awards. The U.S. Mission is not aware of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Morocco has a national commission on Alternative Dispute Resolution with a mandate to regulate mediation training centers and develop mediator certification systems. Morocco seeks to position itself as a regional center for arbitration in Africa, but the capacity of local courts remains a limiting factor. To remedy this shortcoming, the Moroccan government established the Center of Arbitration and Mediation in Rabat, and the Casablanca Finance City Authority established the Casablanca International Mediation and Arbitration Center, which now see a majority of investment disputes. The U.S. Mission is aware of several investment and commercial disputes and has advocated on behalf of U.S. companies to resolve the disputes.

Morocco’s bankruptcy law is based on French law. Commercial courts have jurisdiction over all cases related to insolvency, as set forth in Royal Decree No. 1-97-65 (1997). The Commercial Court in the debtor’s place of business holds jurisdiction in insolvency cases. The law gives secured debtors priority claim on assets and proceeds over unsecured debtors, who in turn have priority over equity shareholders. Bankruptcy is not criminalized. The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report ranked Morocco 73 out of 190 economies in “Resolving Insolvency”. The GOM revised the national insolvency code in March of 2018, but further reform is needed.

9. Corruption

In February 2021, Morocco was placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF’s) “grey list” of countries of concern regarding money laundering and terrorist financing. Following the grey list designation, Morocco made a high-level commitment to work with the FATF and Middle East and North Africa FATF to strengthen the effectiveness of its Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating Financing of Terrorism (CFT) regime. Morocco has taken steps towards improving its AML/CFT regime, including passing new AML legislation, but significant challenges remain.

In Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index  , Morocco’s score dropped by one point causing its ranking to fall one additional position to 87th out of 180 countries. According to the State Department’s 2020 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, Moroccan law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were reports of government corruption in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches during the year.

According to the Global Corruption Barometer Africa 2019 report published in July 2019, 53 percent of Moroccans surveyed think corruption increased in the previous 12 months, 31 percent of public services users paid a bribe in the previous 12 months, and 74 percent believe the government is doing a bad job in tackling corruption.

The 2011 constitution mandated the creation of a national anti-corruption entity. Morocco formally established the National Authority for Probity, Prevention, and Fighting Corruption (INPLCC) but it did not become operational until 2018 when its board was appointed by the king. The INPLCC is tasked with initiating, coordinating, and overseeing the implementation of policies for the prevention and fight against corruption, as well as gathering and disseminating information on the issue. In 2021 parliment passed Law No 19-46 to strengthen INPPLC’s effectiveness in its fight against corruption, creating an integrated framework aimed at improving cooperation and coordination, criminalizing corruption, and improving prevention efforts. Additionally, Morocco’s anti-corruption efforts include enhancing the transparency of public tenders and implementation of a requirement that senior government officials submit financial disclosure statements at the start and end of their government service, although their family members are not required to make such disclosures. Few public officials submitted such disclosures, and there are no effective penalties for failing to comply. Morocco does not have conflict of interest legislation. In 2018, thanks to the passage of an Access to Information (AI) law, Morocco joined the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral effort to make governments more transparent. As part of its 2021-2023 Open Government National Action Plan, Morocco launched a national portal for open government , to share its various commitments and allow its citizens to monitor progress and submit their suggestions and concerns. Although the Moroccan government does not require that private companies establish internal codes of conduct, the Moroccan Institute of Directors (IMA) was established in June 2009 with the goal of bringing together individuals, companies, and institutions willing to promote corporate governance and conduct. IMA published the four Moroccan Codes of Good Corporate Governance Practices. Some private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials. Morocco signed the UN Convention against Corruption in 2007 and hosted the States Parties to the Convention’s Fourth Session in 2011. However, Morocco does not provide any formal protections to NGOs involved in investigating corruption. For more information on corruption issues, please view the Human Rights Report. Although the U.S. Mission is not aware of cases involving corruption regarding customs or taxation issues, American businesses report encountering unexpected delays and requests for documentation that is not required under the FTA or standardized shipping norms.

Resources to Report Corruption

National Authority for Probity, Prevention, and Fighting Corruption (INPPLC)

Avenue Annakhil, Immeuble High Tech, Hall B, 3eme etage, Hay Ryad-Rabat
+212-5 37 57 86 60
Contact@inpplc.ma

Transparency International National Chapter 
24 Boulevard de Khouribga, Casablanca 20250
Telephone number: +212-22-542 699
Contact@transparencymaroc.ma

10. Political and Security Environment

Morocco enjoys political stability. There has not been any recent damage to commercial facilities and/or installations with a continued impact on the investment environment. Demonstrations occur in Morocco and usually center on economic, social, or labor issues. Demonstrations can attract hundreds to thousands of people in major city centers. Participants are typically, but not always, non-violent and the demonstrations are peaceful and orderly.

Morocco has historically experienced terrorist attacks. Travelers should generally exercise increased caution due to terrorism as terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Morocco. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities. Visitors are encouraged to consult the Department of State’s Morocco Travel Advisory for the most current information.

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