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Jordan, Pakistan to negotiate FTA in March

Jordan Times, Amman

Jordan, Pakistan to negotiate FTA in March

By Hani Hazaimeh

6 February 2009

AMMAN - Jordan and Pakistan are expected to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) this year, with negotiations to finalise the draft deal slated for March, Pakistan’s envoy to Jordan said on Wednesday.

"The Pakistani secretary general of the ministry of trade and commerce will visit the Kingdom in March to hold talks with Jordanian officials over the FTA," Ambassador Mohammad Akhtar Tufail told The Jordan Times, adding that the agreement, once signed, will boost the trade exchange between the two sides, which currently stands at around $50 million.

Tufail said the two countries are moving forward to increase their cooperation, particularly in the defence industry and business ties.

President of the Amman Chamber of Industry (ACI) Hatim Halawani said that an FTA agreement with Pakistan would serve the industrial and trade sectors in both countries, but said stakeholders, including business and industry leaders, need to be acquainted with its terms and conditions to make sure that Jordan’s interests are well served.

He described the upcoming deal as an addition to previous such achievements.

The ACI chief underlined free trade deals signed with Arab states under the executive programme for the Greater Arab Free Trade Zone, which saw 45 per cent of Jordanian exports go to Arab markets.

He said that in general, 55 per cent of the Kingdom’s trade exchange is with Arab states.

Under the FTA Jordan signed with the US in 2000, tariff and non-tariff barriers to bilateral trade in virtually all industrial goods and agricultural products will be eliminated in January 2010.

The Kingdom has also signed FTAs with the EFTA countries: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, the EU, the US and Singapore, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Talks are also under way between the government to sign similar accords with Turkey and Canada.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani envoy said President Asif Ali Zardari, who received an invitation from His Majesty King Abdullah to participate in the World Economic Forum (WEF) to be held in May on the shores of the Dead Sea, will participate in the international economic gathering.

Pakistan also “supports the aims and objectives of the G-11 initiative and welcomes the process of institutionalisation of cooperation among the G-11 members. We are confident that the signing of the framework agreement at the next meeting will open new vistas of cooperation between the member states...," Zardari said in his response to the King’s invitation, which was delivered by Jordan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Saleh Jawarneh several weeks ago, according to a statement faxed to The Jordan Times yesterday.

The G-11 will hold its third summit meeting at the Dead Sea May 16 on the sidelines of the WEF.

The alliance, launched in 2005 by King Abdullah, groups Croatia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia, Honduras, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, Paraguay and Sri Lanka in addition to Jordan. The initiative seeks to support the interests of member countries and mobilise global recognition and international support and has identified four priority areas for international support and cooperation: Debt burden alleviation, investment promotion, trade development and targeted grant assistance.