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Making the case for trade in Jordan

Dec 13,2017 - Last updated at Dec 13,2017

December is usually the month when we take stock of what we have achieved during the past year and start thinking of our wishes for the New Year. We look to the future with optimism and hope to build up on the present, in order to harvest the seeds we planted the year before. This is exactly what the trade agenda in Jordan needs at this point in time. 

The economy of Jordan today is at a critical juncture. The effects of regional volatility have been felt both by businesses and the population. From the closure of borders to Jordan's traditional markets, to the impact of the influx of refugees due to the instability in Syria, to low growth rates compared to a few years ago, it is clear that improving Jordan's resilience will require more efforts from all stakeholders, entrepreneurs, government and international partners. Trade can be part of the solution.

In response to these economic challenges, the European Union took the unprecedented decision to relax the rules that apply to trade with Jordan, known as rules of origin. Our objective was to open avenues for companies operating in Jordan, boost employment for all, while ensuring that Syrian refugees become part of a consolidated development effort and bring value to the economy.  

On Wednesday, with my fellow European Union ambassadors, we visited companies which are exporting to the EU under the relaxed rules of origin scheme, to see real examples of people benefitting from trade openness. Their stories are testimony that trade can be a force for good. It has helped companies in Jordan achieve higher productivity, greater competition, and improved quality of their products. For employees, may they be Jordanians or Syrians, it has created jobs and contributed to improved standards of living for their families. More than numbers, it has had a direct impact on people's lives.

However, this is only the beginning and the benefits of trade do not come overnight. They require ambition from the private sector and coordinated action from all parties involved. As we are about to launch into 2018, I have three wishes for Jordan's trade.

First, for entrepreneurs, I wish they keep their grit and they remain proactive interlocutors for the government and their trade associations. They continue to flag obstacles that prevent them from investing in their business and export. They stay curious and explore opportunities in EU markets, strive to improve the quality of both their products and their marketing and stay together in order to make the voice of Jordanian industry strong. They are the core of what will make "Made in Jordan" a global brand name.

Second, for the Jordanian Government, I wish they continue on a productive path of reform. Increasing investment and export is required for the government to stay ambitious; to create better conditions for investors, both within and outside the region, to choose Jordan as their long-term export base. From education to tax law, I wish the right conditions be created for motivated Jordanian entrepreneurs to turn their dreams into reality.

As for us, trade partners, I wish that we continue to connect the dots. Support sectors that demonstrate added value and positive change, and ensure that our investors are aware of Jordan's potential. We can act as the glue that brings together our markets and Jordanian products, ensuring that doors are open for Jordan's exports. I wish we continue to support the government in undertaking reforms with a long-term vision that will benefit the people of Jordan.

Looking back at all we have worked hard to achieve in 2017, I am convinced that 2018 will be a year of opportunity for trade in Jordan. But to create this opportunity we need more than wishful thinking; we need the collective resolve from all stakeholders and concrete and coordinated action plans to help Jordan create the mechanisms that will ensure long-term sustainable economic growth and stability.

So, as you head to your holiday parties and start thinking of your New Year’s resolutions, don't forget, "opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor". Let us make sure 2018 finds us with our dancing shoes on.



Andrea Matteo Fontana is the Ambassador of the European Union to Jordan.

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