Jordan Times - 17/09/2006
Jordan expected to sign free trade agreement with Iraq
AMMAN - Jordan and Iraq are in the final stages of discussions over the signing of a free trade agreement, a senior official confirmed on Saturday.
Minister of Industry and Trade Sharif Zu’bi told The Jordan Times that the committees from both countries will meet in Amman shortly to finalise aspects of the agreement, which is aimed at boosting bilateral trade and cooperation.
According to the minister, the trade volume between the two neighbouring countries in 2005 stood at $750 million.
Jordan exports consist of various items of foodstuff, pharmaceutical products, drugs, medical equipment, steel, cement and construction-related materials.
The minister made the remarks following a meeting yesterday with Iraqi Minister of Industry Fawzi Hariri, where he called on Iraq to facilitate the entry of Jordanian engineering and contracting companies to assist with rebuilding efforts.
During the meeting, Zu’bi stressed Jordan’s readiness to assist Iraq in efforts to boost its economy, including the creation of qualifying industrial zones and other industry-related ventures.
The minister announced yesterday that work is currently under way to create four new qualifying industrial zones in Jordan at a cost of $80 million.
Iraq struck a deal in mid-August with Jordan to provide 10-30 per cent of the Kingdom’s daily oil needs of around 100,000 barrels at preferential rates.
Part of the deal will eventually involve laying a new pipeline across the desert between the two neighbours.
The move is aimed at easing pressure on the Jordanian government, which increased the price of petrol, gas and home heating oil in April by between 12 and 43 per cent in a bid to reduce the budget deficit.
The April price hike was the third in less than a year.
Before the US-led war on Iraq in March 2003, Jordan depended on Iraq for all its oil needs, importing 5.5 million tonnes annually by road, half of it free and the rest at a preferential rates.