Morocco: Will OCP’s fightback against US company Mosaic succeed?

By Estelle Maussion
Posted on Wednesday, 13 July 2022 11:23

Mostafa Terrab has been CEO of Moroccan giant OCP since 2006. © HOC

Challenging the imposition of tariffs that close off the US market, the Moroccan phosphate giant OCP has launched its counter-offensive. Presided over by US District Judge Stephen Alexander Vaden, a hearing was held on 28 June in New York before the US Court of International Trade (USCIT) to discuss the tariffs that have been imposed on Moroccan fertiliser imports into the US market since March 2021.

Although OCP has suspended its imports to the US since the measure came into effect, it continues to sell in Canada and Latin America. Furthermore, it is challenging the decision made by two entities of the US administration, namely the US International Trade Commission (ITC) and the US Department of Commerce (USDC), to impose these tariffs, after the US fertiliser producer and OCP’s competitor Mosaic filed a complaint in June 2020.

Moroccan breakthrough between 2017 and 2019

The Tampa, Florida-based group, which filed the lawsuit under the Trump administration and largely emphasised the need to defend the 3,500 jobs it represents locally, accuses OCP of selling “subsidised” products and thus engaging in “unfair competition.” It points out the sharp increase in Moroccan imports to the US between 2017 and 2019.

Challenging these accusations and having announced in June 2021 its willingness to appeal the US administration’s decision, the Moroccan group headed by Mostafa Terrab hopes that the federal court will rule in its favour, which would force the ITC and the USDC to reconsider the case. At the same time, OCP is leading a second appeal to the federal court to challenge the level of customs duties applied (19.97%).

Regarding the part debated at the end of June, one of the arguments put forward by the Moroccan giant is based on the fact that, during the period studied, a large part of the production of its US competitor was not sold on the national market but instead exported, in particular to Brazil, where the selling prices were more advantageous. This undermines Mosaic’s accusation that it is having to compete with OCP in the US.

Lobbying

It is not yet known when Judge Vaden will announce his decision and, if the outcome is favourable to OCP, Mosaic could in turn appeal before a possible re-examination of the case, which would undoubtedly lead to long months of proceedings.

In addition to its legal action, OCP has invested in lobbying, by availing of the services of communication firms, to defend its position across the Atlantic. In March, Iowa’s Democratic Congresswoman Cindy Axne, her Kansas Republican counterpart Tracey Mann, and Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran sent a letter to the ITC asking for the tariffs to be suspended because of fertiliser supply difficulties and high world prices.

At the same time, OCP announced that it would be strengthening its industrial links with a US player in the fertiliser sector – Koch Ag & Energy Solutions, a subsidiary of the Koch conglomerate – by creating a joint venture to develop fertiliser production in the Moroccan complex of the Jorf Lasfar port.

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