Jordanian Trade and Industry Minister Wassef Azar flew to Baghdad on Saturday with a high-level delegation to begin discussions on setting up a free trade zone between Iraq and Jordan, officials said.
The delegation, consisting of 180 industrialists, merchants and businessmen, left aboard a Royal Jordanian airline flight.
Speaking before their departure, Azar said his talks would focus on "accelerating" the signing of an accord and on measures to increase Iraqi imports of Jordanian goods.
Under an existing trade agreement, Amman exports 450 million dollars worth of goods to Iraq a year. In return, it receives 5 million tonnes of petroleum, half for free and the rest at a preferential price.
Separately, Jordanian Energy Minister Wael Sabri said construction of the $350-million, 750-kilometer (465-mile) oil pipeline planned to link the two countries will get underway in six months and be completed next year. Iraqi oil is currently transported by tanker trucks.
Last month, Iraq signed free trade agreements with Egypt and Syria. Iraq was the main Arab market for Jordanian exports before the 1991 Gulf war. Relations between the two neighboring countries were bolstered when Jordan sent a humanitarian plane to Baghdad, becoming the first Arab country to defy a 10-year-old UN air ban imposed on Iraq.
In November Abu Ragheb was the first Arab head of government to fly to Iraq in a decade. — (AFP, Amman)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )