Jordan Times - 12/Aug/2005
Palestinian, Jordanian officials initial Free Trade Agreement
Palestinian officials said on Thursday that they seek to partly replace Israeli goods with made-in-Jordan products after a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two Arab sides goes into effect.
"The trend among Palestinian decision makers is to go east, particularly to Jordan" bringing an end to Palestinian reliance on Israeli products, said Abdul Hafiz Nofal, deputy assistant of the Palestinian ministry of economy.
Nofal was speaking upon initialling an FTA and five other agreements culminating two-day meetings of the Joint Jordanian Palestinian Economic Committee.
Signing for Jordan was Ministry of Industry and Trade Secretary General Muntasser Oqla.
Industry and Trade Minister Sharif Zu’bi, who attended the ceremony, pledged Jordan’s full support to the Palestinians in various economic fields.
Zu’bi said the Israeli side should "remove all obstacles that impede the flow of products between Jordan and the Palestinian lands," noting that such obstacles are giving Israel a free hand to dominate the Palestinian market whose imports from Israel amount to $4 billion a year.
Officials will seek to set up a trilateral committee, including Israel, to discuss ways to address the issue.
Enhanced cooperation between Jordan - and other Arab countries - on the one hand and Palestine, on the other, would be very beneficial to all after the planned Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, said Nofal.
He noted that the Palestinians were promised billions in international assistance to develop Gaza.
Jordan urged the Palestinian National Authority to join the Arab Mediterranean Free Trade Zone Agreement, know as Agadir Agreement, to optimise cooperation with member states and become a candidate for exporting to the European Union.
The two sides also renewed on Thursday a 1997 agreement between the Jordan Institute for Standards and Metrology and its Palestinian counterpart. No details were given on the agreements during the signing ceremony.
The two sides have also reached a cooperation agreement between Jordan Enterprise Development Company and Palestinian Trade Centre (PALTRADE) in addition to a memorandum of understanding on trade exhibitions and a protocol to cooperate in areas related to WTO agreements.
Zu’bi is scheduled to sign the agreements next week with his Palestinian peer Samer Sunuqrut.
Jordan-Palestinian Trade volume last year totalled JD30 million. It amounted to JD10 million in the first four months of the current year. The trade balance is in favour of Jordan, ministry official said, without giving further details.