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Jordan’s new regional approach

Mar 25,2019 - Last updated at Mar 25,2019

The trilateral summit in Cairo that included Egypt, Jordan and Iraq represents a new opportunity for Jordan to advance trade, economic and investment cooperation in the region. In fact, the summit can help build on the strong ties between the three countries in a region beset by instability and uncertainty.

Of course, there are a lot of regional projects that are of interest for the three countries. But Amman is to work meticulously to restore the once strong economic and trade ties with Baghdad. During the 1990s, 20 per cent of Jordan’s exports went to Iraq. But the American occupation of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent instability of Iraq reduced the trade ties to a modest rate. Therefore, restoring the Iraqi market is a top priority for the government. It remains to be seen what kind of projects and cooperation the three countries may come up with.

Given the dire economic situation in Jordan, there is a need to diversify Jordan’s economic ties. Dependency on foreign aid is untenable in years to come. Besides, Jordan’s reliance on aid is not without cost. Just recently, His Majesty King Abdullah made it perfectly clear that other players tried to put a lot of economic pressure on Jordan to force it to accept policies that do not serve our national interests. In the final analysis, it all boils down to freeing Jordan from dependency.

The trilateral meeting is by no means an alliance. It focuses on how to advance economic and trade cooperation between the three countries. Perhaps, this is the best way of creating a degree of economic integration in the region. It is a win-win approach where everyone stands to win. Needless to say, the three countries have suffered from terrorist attacks. In Jordan, for instance, there is a prevailing argument that connects the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions with radicalism. The West Asia and North Africa Institute has conducted research about radicalism in some areas of Jordan. The link between radicalism and poverty is well documented. Seen in this way, if Jordan improves its economic situation, this will surely help with the de-radicalisation strategy pursued by the state.

Jordan came to the conclusion that economic growth is the key to preempt the radicalisation process in some areas in Jordan. While radicalism is still not threatening internal stability, it has the potential of doing so. Once again, short of paying attention to this link, the government will run risk of pushing some segments of the society to radicalise.

This new approach of connecting internal security to economic integration at the regional level is badly needed these days. I argue that Jordan is ideally situated to lead this process of economic integration, where it can create job opportunities for the increasing numbers of educated and skilled unemployed youth. To be sure, there are some legal and political impediments that need to be overcome. That said, the three countries put economic cooperation on front burner. Perhaps, they all learnt from previous unsuccessful attempts to create a working framework for economic cooperation.

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