(AFP, Amman) - Iraq is preparing to switch its trade back to Jordan's Red Sea port of Aqaba, a top Iraqi industrial official said, quoted in Tuesday's Jordanian newspapers. "Iraq has taken the necessary steps for its exports and imports to start passing through Aqaba in the next few weeks," said Ihsan Abdel Razaq Yunes, chairman of the Union of Iraqi Industries. The move shows Baghdad's desire to develop its trade links with Jordan, he added, and follows a visit to Amman last month by Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan which helped "reinforce bilateral relations particularly in economic affairs."
During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and in the wake of the UN sanctions imposed on Baghdad for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the Jordanian port was Iraq's sole outlet to the sea, but in the last four years Baghdad has opted for ports in the Gulf, Iran and even its arch-rival Syria. The switch back to Aqaba follows recent Jordanian government decisions to reduce taxes on the port's handling services.
At the end of the 1980s Jordanian exports to Iraq amounted to nearly $ two billion annually. Now, under the Jordanian-Iraqi oil deal and trade agreement for 2000, Jordan's exports will be worth no more than $300 million, in exchange for 4.8 million tonnes of Iraqi oil. Jordan receives half the oil free, and the remainder at preferential tariffs. Iraq has special UN authorisation to sell oil to Jordan despite the sanctions.
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )