Jordan-Egypt trade weathers turmoil, continues to grow
Despite the turmoil and political changes in Egypt in 2011, its trade volume with Jordan increased last year and the two countries are on a path toward further cooperation, Egypt’s ambassador to Jordan Amr Abul Ata said. In an interview with The Jordan Times to mark the first anniversary of the January 25 revolution that forced Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to step down after three decades in power, the envoy said that despite disruptions to the supply of Egyptian gas to the Kingdom in 2011, total trade volume exceeded $1 billion, compared to $890 million in 2010.
Egyptian gas supplies fell from 220 million cubic feet per day in 2010 to an average of 80 million cubic feet in 2011 due to a series of 10 attacks last year on the Arab Gas Pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula that cut off the flow of natural gas. Egypt supplies Jordan with gas and electricity, while the Kingdom’s primary exports to Egypt are fruits, olive oil and some raw materials, according to the envoy. Abul Ata said he expects the trade volume to rise again this year, although the increase is likely to favour Egypt in light of the amended agreement signed between the two countries last month that raised the price Jordan pays for Egyptian gas from under $2 to around $6 per 1,000 cubic feet. Jordan currently relies on Egyptian gas for 80 percent of its electricity generation needs. To hedge against disruptions in supply, the Kingdom has moved towards an agreement with Qatar to import gas from the Gulf state, but will not begin receiving Qatari gas for at least another two years
Referring to tourism, a key sector in both the Jordanian and Egyptian economies, Abul Ata said his country and Jordan are working towards greater cooperation in this industry, which was affected in both countries after the revolution in Egypt and other turmoil in the region last year. “We have been trying to arrange for joint tourism packages to benefit the two countries, as European tourists prefer to visit more than one destination in one trip,” he noted, predicting that when stability returns to Egypt, the tourism sector there will thrive, which will benefit Jordan’s tourism industry as well. He explained that tourism sector revenues in his country dropped by 33 percent in 2011 compared to the previous year. “However, Egypt, especially Sharm El Sheikh, is still a main tourism destination for Jordanians, and some 150,000 Jordanians visited Sharm El Sheikh during the recent Eid Al Adha vacation,” said the ambassador.
Jordan is a major destination for Egyptian labourers, Abul Ata noted, adding that the official figures indicating that more than 380,000 Egyptians are working in the Kingdom probably undercount the actual number. Egyptian guest workers in Jordan “are treated as members of the Jordanian community” and rarely suffer mistreatment or violations of their rights, he said. “We hardly receive any complaints from our citizens, except for some individual cases,” the envoy added.
On the topic of political relations between Amman and Cairo, the Egyptian ambassador said these relations have always been “excellent” as the two countries have several common interests, including external issues. “The Palestinian cause is on top of these interests and there is always coordination between Jordan and Egypt in this regard,” he stressed.
Speaking about the Egyptian revolt that was launched on January 25 last year, Abul Ata said the uprising was necessitated by the limitless corruption, unemployment and social injustice the country suffered from under the Mubarak regime. However, the goals of the revolution — mainly social justice, development and democracy — cannot be realised overnight, and change will take time, he noted.