King Abdullah II of Jordan is to witness the signature of a free trade agreement with Washington at the White House on Tuesday with US President Bill Clinton, a Jordanian official said. Amman hopes the accord will result in increased Jordanian exports to the United States and US investment in Jordan.
King Abdullah, who was in Cairo on Saturday for the Arab summit, is to return to Amman the next day before heading for Washington via London, the official told AFP.
Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Halaykah, who is responsible for economic matters, went to the United States on October 18 to add the final touches to the accord. He said certain technical questions were outstanding, notably in the field of services and protection of intellectual property.
US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky was in Amman at the end of July to discuss the agreement and said then that substantive progress had been made to reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers between the two countries.
Talks on a free trade pact were launched in June following a visit to the United States by Jordan's King Abdullah II.
In 1999, Jordan's exports to the United States totaled less than $13 million, compared with $360 million in imports, according to official figures. But Jordan ranks fourth in the world among beneficiaries of US aid, amounting to nearly one billion dollars in the last three years.
Faced with a seven-billion-dollar foreign debt and a 25-percent unemployment rate, Jordan launched a major economic liberalization program at the end of 1998. In April Jordan officially became the 136th member of the World Trade Organization, capping an application procedure it launched in January 1994. — (AFP, Amman)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)