RABAT - Morocco's pharmaceutical industry is at threat from a free trade agreement signed with the United States in August last year, an industry spokesman warned on Wednesday.
"The free-trade agreement with the United States will cause the downfall of this industry, the pride of our economy," Mohamed Rhaouti, president of the Council of the Order of Moroccan Pharmacists, said in an interview.
The Moroccan pharmaceutical industry employs 30,000 people including a fifth of managers, supplies 80 percent of the country's requirements and exports 10 percent of its production, he told Aujourd'hui Le Maroc newspaper.
"Citizens will be the first to suffer because access to far cheaper generic medecines will be delayed," he said, saying that imported US medecines would retail at high prices.
"If we increase prices, most people will never have access to medecines," he warned, saying that Moroccans currently spend just 450 million dollars per year on medecines, an average of 170 dirhams (17 dollars/13 euros) per person.
The Moroccan association for the fight against HIV/AIDS has also voiced concerns over the agreement, under which Rabat agreed to impose high penalties for intellectual property and trademark violations, could undermine access to cheap medecines.
The US-Moroccan agreement, which is due to be ratified by the Rabat parliament next week, calls for the elimination of customs tariffs on 95 percent of industrial and commercial goods.
It covers industrial and agricultural goods, intellectual property, services, customs, employment, the environment and telecommunications.
The north African nation is the United States' 73rd largest trade partner.