The European Union’s executive arm proposed a new trade deal with, designed to extend duty-free trade in agricultural, food and fisheries goods between the kingdom and the 27-nation bloc.

The agreement—negotiated at the end of 2009—would allow 70 percent of the EU’s agricultural exports to enter Morocco duty free within the next 10 years.

Exports of oilseeds and cereals from the EU would be duty-free within a decade, with the exception of common wheat and durum wheat, for which Morocco would apply improved rates.

European Commission officials said the deal offered particular advantages for EU exports of processed products and speciality foods, with Morocco’s burgeoning middle class creating a growth market for such goods.

In return the EU is offering improved market access for Moroccan goods such as unprocessed fruit and vegetables, which currently account for 80 percent of EU imports from the kingdom.

This includes increased duty-free access for up to 285,000 tonnes of Moroccan tomatoes, which sparked protests by Spanish tomato farmers against the deal at an EU-Morocco summit in Granada in March.

European agri-food and fisheries exports to Morocco were worth about 1 billion euros ($1.31 billion) between 2007 and 2009, the Commission said. Morocco sold about 2 billion euros worth of similar goods to the EU over the same period.

The deal must be approved by EU governments and lawmakers before entering into force. (Reuters)