Jordanians: Trade with Israel harmful

Tensions between Jordan and Israel over the Jewish state's policies have created favorable conditions for peace opponents within the Hashemite Kingdom. Last week, a new boycott campaign against Israeli products was launched throughout the kingdom's markets, accompanied by an extensive media campaign that explains why normalizing economic ties with Israel isn't beneficial or necessary for Jordan.

As a matter of fact, these voices have been around in Jordan since 1994, when the peace agreement was signed between the two states, but were stifled by the authorities – who often confronted trade unions on the matter.

In any case, trade between the two neighbors has flourished since, and according to Jordanian sources increased by 900% during the past 15 years.

Nowadays, it seems the Jordanian leadership has taken a new stance, partly stemming from their disappointment with the so-called "peace dividend."

One such example is the failing success of the QIZ agreement – a joint Israeli- Jordanian manufacturing agreement that is duty free in the American market.

Dr. Muneer Hamarneh, a Jordanian economist and chairman of the Communist party, explained that QIZ areas established on Jordanian territory have been harmful for the kingdom.

In an interview with al- Madina newspaper, Hamarneh explained that factories began employing cheap laborers from Asian countries and harmed Jordan's international reputation by entangling it in accusations of human trafficking.

Hamarneh also noted that many Arab and Islamic states avoid importing Jordanian products due to Israeli involvement in the production process.

According to data published in Jordan, the kingdom's exports to the Jewish state during 2009 amounted to 71.5 million dinar (about $100 million). In contrast, imports from Israel during 2009 totaled at around 93 million dinar (about $130 million). According to sources in the Hashemite Kingdom, 1,050 Israeli companies were involved in exports to Jordan during the past year.

Economist Hussam Ayesh noted that economic relations between Israel and Jordan are unilateral, and serve as "free propaganda for Israeli products." According to Ayesh, these relations do not benefit Jordan, whose economy is 10 times smaller, and exports nine times smaller than that of Israel.

Doron Peskin is head of research at Info-Prod Research (Middle-East) Ltd.

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN YNET 23 05.04.10

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