Bilateral trade between Iraq and Jordan slipping due to continued obstacles
The sanctions, which were imposed on Iraq following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, also brought another factor which hinders trade, Lloyds Registered, which is assigned to inspect all Iraq-bound goods, a senior industrialist said on Sunday.
Former chairman of the Amman Chamber of Industry Khaldoun Abu Hassan, who spoke at a seminar late Sunday, said Jordan's loss as a result of the sanctions stands at $1 billion annually.
Abu Hassan, who maintains good ties with the Iraqi government, also said that Jordan currently ranks 23rd among the countries that supply Iraq with humanitarian purchases in line with the oil-for-food agreement declined as a result of the continuous delays in approving the contracts Jordanian firms make with Iraq.
The contracts must be approved by a UN subcommittee, where the US maintains a strong influence.
Abu Hassan accused the US of being responsible for delaying approval of these contracts.
The Kingdom used to rank fourth after China, Russia and France, Abu Hassan said.
According to the oil-for-food agreement, which Iraq signed in December 1996, Iraq is presently allowed to export oil worth $5.2 billion in return for medicine and food supplies for its population of 22 million.
According to Abu Hassan, official figures show that Jordanian firms share in the seventh stage of the oil-for-food agreement in the first half of this year amounted to JD50.3 million compared to JD70 million in 1999 and JD138 million in 1998.
He said that Jordanian exports to Iraq, the Kingdom's largest trade partner, declined in the past few year.
Jordanian exports to Iraq this year amounted to 26.2 percent of its total exports to Arab states, compared to 51.2 percent in 1989 and 18 percent in 1999, the report said.
Jordanian imports from Iraq in the first five months of the current year amounted to 67.2 percent of the Kingdom's total imports from Arab countries, which stands at JD290.2 million.
Jordan's imports from Iraq increased by 113.6 percent compared to 1999 figures.
The figures presented by Abu Hassan, obtained from the Central Bank of Jordan and other sources, showed that transit trade with Iraq via Aqaba Port declined by 20 percent in the past few years.
In 1983 Iraq imported 2.8 million tonnes through Aqaba Port compared to 6.8 million tonnes in 1988 and only 28,482 tonnes in the first seven months of the current year.
Officials estimate Aqaba Port's total capacity at 30 million tonnes.
Following the lifting of the US blockade of Aqaba Port, which was imposed to inspect all Jordan bound vessels after the Gulf war, the London-based Lloyds Registered, was brought in to replace the US navy in its work.
Since then, Jordan has paid around $5 million annually for Lloyds to undertake this mission. The amount is deducted from the clearance companies at the port.
Earlier this year, Jordan and Iraq renewed the oil agreement, where Baghdad charged the Kingdom a new rate, which further burdened the treasury.
The oil agreement this year amounted to $740 million, of which $300 million-worth is free of charge. Iraq charges $19 per barrel.
If the two sides apply the international price of oil, the Kingdom's oil bill would exceed $900 million.
The treasury's revenue from the sale of the Iraqi oil exceeds $330 million. ― (Jordan Times)
By Tareq Ayyoub
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)