The development of the Jordanian industry has been hampered by a small domestic market and political unrest in the region. The largest revenue comes from phosphate extraction, cement production and oil refining. Other important industrial products are artificial fertilizers, salt and pharmaceuticals. There is also lighter industry for the production of food, clothing and consumer goods.
Manufacturing is concentrated in the Amman / al-Zarqa area, but companies that establish themselves outside of this can receive tax relief. Jordan has several free trade zones and in 2001 the entire Aqaba region became a special economic zone with tax relief for foreign investors.
Following the peace agreement with Israel in 1994, special industrial zones, known as Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ), were created at the initiative of the US Congress. Goods manufactured there, including clothing, must contain a certain amount of Israeli material but could in exchange be exported duty-free to the US market. A free trade agreement with the United States from 2001, fully expanded in 2010, then led to exports to the United States of goods produced in Jordan gained momentum.
A significant part of the companies that have established themselves in the free zones are Chinese. Companies operating in the zones mainly employ foreigners at very low wages.
The textile industry, which manufactures sports equipment for trade in the US, has in recent years employed upwards of 50,000 guest workers from southern Asia. According to the ILO, this corresponds to about three quarters of the workforce in the factories. Export value increased in the years before the corona crisis slowed world trade by almost 10 percent annually.
Exports from the food industry, which employs about 5,000 people, increased by 8 percent in 2019.
- COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Jordan. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.
Jordan’s traditionally large role in the industry is diminishing through privatization, although it is slow.
Israeli lease of agricultural land ends
Israeli farmers are closed off from two areas of agricultural land in Jordan, when a 25-year lease expires. The two enclaves are close to the border and the lease was concluded simultaneously with the 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan. When King Abdullah does not want to extend the agreement, it testifies to frosty relations between the countries.
The government is being reformed
The government is leaving for a restructuring, the second in six months. For Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz, who is a Harvard-trained economist, will be the fourth time he has to replace ministers since he took office in 2018. According to information from the AFP news agency, King Abdullah expects the next ministry to present a financial reform plan before the New Year.
Diplomatic protest against Israel
Jordan calls home its ambassador from Israel because of two cases where Jordanian citizens are being held captive. They were arrested at a border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank occupied by Israel, but Israel has not explained on what grounds. At the beginning of November, both countries announce that the two arrested will be handed over to Jordanian authorities and that the ambassador will resume his work in Israel, but the grounds for the arrests will not be reported.
Dressed for striking teachers
Jordanian teachers end a month-long strike after receiving promises of higher wages. The strike has stopped teaching in about 4,000 state schools with more than 1.4 million students.
Syrian refugees return
About 153,000 Syrians have returned home since the most important border crossing was reopened in October, according to the Jordanian Interior Ministry (see October 15, 2018). 33,000 of the returnees were registered as UNHCR refugees. 650,000 Syrians have been granted refugee status at the UN in Jordan, which, all told, has received 1.3 million Syrians since the Civil War broke out in 2011.
Jordanian Princess on the run
Jordanian Princess Haya, who is one of several wives to the Emir of Dubai, has taken refuge in Britain and fears that her husband will bring her home forcibly. Earlier this year she should have gone to Germany to seek asylum, but now she is trying to fight for an independent life through the British court. Husband Muhammad Al Maktum is the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and the case is likely to be troublesome for the British Government, which is keen to maintain good relations with the Emirates. For Jordan, it can have consequences. Haya is half-sister to the King of Jordan, and about a quarter of a million Jordanians support their families through work in the Emirates. The Emir’s adult daughter Latifa tried to escape from Dubai 2018, but was captured. It has not been known what has happened to her ever since.
The government is being reformed, again
Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz reforms the government for the third time in less than a year. Salamah Hamad returns to the post of Interior Minister. Muhammad al-Ississ, Harvard-trained economic adviser to the King, receives the ministerial chair and, among other things, planning responsibilities.
The lowest marriage age is raised
Parliament’s two chambers vote to raise the minimum age for marriages in exceptional cases from 15 to 16 years. Normally it is 18 years that applies, but a judge can give a clear sign for younger if a number of conditions are met. One of the conditions is that the bride approves the marriage. Both domestic and other human rights organizations have highlighted that girls are usually given away before they turn legal. According to official statistics from 2017, the bride was under the age of 18 at 13 percent of the marriages that took place during the year.
Assad review is requested via Jordan
Lawyers representing 28 Syrian refugees in Jordan demand that the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate cases where the Syrian regime is accused of crimes against humanity during the civil war. Syria has not signed documents that approve the ICC, but so has Jordan, and the group has taken an impression of how Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are trying to find a way to put the regime in Burma in charge of persecution.
Oil against electricity in border trade
Iraq resumes oil deliveries to Jordan via Kirkuk tankers. Jordan will in turn export electricity to Iraq within a couple of years. Prime Ministers Adil Abd al-Mahdi and Omar al-Razzaz meet at the border, where they have also agreed to set up an industrial area (see January 14). In Iraq, there is some grief over fears that Jordan will receive a rebate on oil, but it is linked to Iraq looking for other sources of electricity imports when trade with Iran is subject to US sanctions.
Prisoner for Islamist protests 2011
The state security court sentenced a Salafist leader known by the name of Abu Muhammad Tahawi to nine years in prison. The charges against the man are about uprisings in the city of al-Zarqa during the Arab Spring of 2011. About 150 Salafists, who follow a very conservative interpretation of Islam, were brought to trial in 2011. Most of them, however, have not been able to be arrested.
Regional gas forum is formed
Seven countries in the eastern Mediterranean agree to establish regional cooperation on gas extraction, with the Cairo office. Those behind the Eastern Mediterranean gas forum, which will be the organization’s name, are Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Italy and the Palestinian Authority. Natural gas has been found in several places in the eastern Mediterranean in recent years and some of the countries already have bilateral extraction agreements.
Delayed plan for oil pipeline is taken up
Jordan’s King Abdullah visits Iraq for the first time in over ten years. Iraq’s President Barham Salih, for his part, has visited Amman a few months earlier. The countries have a 18-mile common border and Jordan imports Iraqi crude oil. In 2013, they agreed to build a 170-mile oil pipeline between Basra and Aqaba, but plans were halted when the jihadist IS subdued large parts of Iraq. Jordan has decided to revive the plan, but no new timetable has been announced.