GENEVA — Trading powers in a World Trade Organization forum commended Jordan for its efforts to further open its trade and investment regime despite the challenges posed by turmoil in neighboring Iraq and Syria. The WTO group also noted the country’s free-trade agreements, like the one with the U.S., have impacted positively on trade, including large gains in apparel exports.
“Jordan’s economy faces many external and internal challenges, including geopolitical pressures in the region,” said Christopher Wilson, deputy chief of the U.S. mission to the WTO. “Notwithstanding those challenges, Jordan has been on a path of trade and economic liberalization.…The United States applauds these efforts.”
Maha Ali, Jordan’s minister of industry, trade and supply, told WTO delegates at a two-day review of her country’s trade regime that Jordan is “an oasis of stability in the Middle East and serves as a hub of doing business in the region.”
She also emphasized that Jordan hosts 1.4 million Syrian refugees, or about 20 percent of Jordan’s population, and noted the economy grew by 3.2 percent in 2014.
According to a report on Jordan’s trade regime used as reference for the review session, the economy is projected to expand by around 4 percent this year.
The WTO report also shows Jordan’s merchandise exports last year grew 6 percent to $8.3 billion, with apparel shipments valued at $1.29 billion for 15.4 percent share, up from 14.5 percent a year earlier, with the U.S. market absorbing more than $1.1 billion, or 85.2 percent, of those shipments. Knitted or crocheted garments, T-shirts, singlets and vests were the biggest items.
When the Jordan-U.S. trade pact took hold in 2000, apparel exports destined for the U.S. were valued at $44.5 million. Within five years, that figure had climbed to just under $1 billion.
However, the U.S., China, Turkey and other trading partners also pointed to areas where Jordan is lagging behind. Wilson said, “Jordan could gain from further dismantling its tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade” and also called on the country “to take steps to strengthen its enforcement” of intellectual property rights.
The Chinese delegation said “there is still space for Jordan to improve in building an investment-friendly environment, particularly in the areas of easing foreign investment restrictions.”