Representatives of key economic sectors are concerned that possible Arab sanctions against Syria will have a strongly negative impact on Jordan's economy.
They told The Jordan Times Sunday that although Syria is not Jordan's biggest trade partner, the two neighbouring countries enjoy unique interrelated commercial and social relations. The economic experts expressed hope that the Kingdom will not take part in enforcing the expected economic sanctions by the Arab League against Damascus to stop an eight-month violent crackdown on protesters.
Indicating that between 400 to 500 cargo trucks from Jordan enter Syria per day, President of the Jordan Chamber of Commerce Nael Kabariti said Syria is not only a strategic market for the Kingdom, but also a gateway to the Turkish, Lebanese and European markets. He noted that Jordanian merchants also have been using Syrian seaports to import major products to the local market, particularly wood and steel, adding that importing through Syrian ports remains more feasible to the commercial sector in terms of cutting costs and time.
If Arab countries decide to endorse economic sanctions against Syria, Kabariti voiced hope that Jordan will not implement such penalties, pointing to a high amount of commercial activities between residents of cities on the borders of both countries.
Nazzal Armouti, deputy chairperson of the Jordan Chamber of Industry, also warned that any sanctions on Syria will negatively affect the industrial sector in the Kingdom, because, according to the sector leader, Syria is a key market for local chemical, agricultural and engineering products. Armouti said the industrial sector also imports a large portion of production inputs from the neighbouring country, adding that the sanctions may hinder the flow of goods between the two countries. "Losing any key market for Jordanian exports will result in labour layoffs and limit job opportunities," he highlighted. With farmers in the Jordan Valley preparing for winter crops as the season begins next week, Zuhair Jweihan, chairperson of the Jordan Exporters and Producers Association for Fruits and Vegetables (JEPA), indicated that Syria is a major importer of vegetables during the season.
According to official figures, the Syrian market accounts for around 33 percent of Jordanian vegetable exports mainly tomatos, cucumbers and eggplants. The northern neighbour is also a transit point for Jordanian trucks carrying vegetables and fruits to Lebanon and Europe, Jweihan said, pointing out any possible sanctions on Damascus will affect contracts the farmers have signed with European companies. Citing several European countries such as Russia, Hungary, Romania, Germany and Turkey, which import Jordanian agricultural goods particularly during winter, the JEPA president noted that finding alternative markets will not be an easy task. "Around 65 percent of the local produce is exported to Syria and Iraq," he indicated.
The expected Arab sanctions will not only cost losing an important market but will also put heavy shipment costs on exporters, who will be forced to use marine transportation to reach European markets, Jweihan noted. According to Department of Statistics figures, the volume of trade exchange between Jordan and Syria reached around JD371 million during the first three quarters of this year. Jordanian exports to Syria stood during the same period at JD148 million, while imports from the northern neighbouring country exceeded JD220 million, the statistics showed.