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Jordan keen for more Chinese investment

By JAN YUMUL in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2021-08-16 09:34

Photo taken on July 27, 2021 shows Hammam street in As-Salt, Jordan. [Photo/Xinhua]

Building on ties that have deepened during the pandemic, China and Jordan can promote greater connectivity in all spheres and help smooth the way for more Chinese investment into the Middle Eastern country, experts say.

Furkan Halit Yolcu, a research assistant at the Sakarya University's Middle East Institute in Turkey, said increased Chinese investment would help offset the impact of the pandemic on Jordan's tourism sector.

With the reduced flow of visitors, Yolcu said, Jordan will be more eager than ever for foreign support and direct investment. The Jordan Investment Commission has reported that foreign direct investment grew 2 percent to about $700 million last year. Funds were going into 376 projects that are expected to generate 24,000 jobs.

China's Ambassador to Jordan, Chen Chuandong, said bilateral trade grew 21.4 percent in the first two quarters of 2021.

In June, the Amman Chamber of Commerce, or ACC, called for increased Chinese investment when its representatives met Chinese embassy officials.

They stressed the need to boost Jordan's exports to China. The chamber's representatives are also keen to carry out trade missions once virus restrictions are eased.

Jordan's location and stability make it an ideal investment destination for many countries, including China.

Metri Mdanat, an associate professor at the School of Management and Logistics Sciences at the German Jordanian University in Amman, said Jordan has many investment opportunities that can benefit Chinese investors, including in manufacturing, transportation and information communications and technology.

Trade partners

According to the Chinese embassy in Jordan, China is Jordan's third-largest trade partner and its second-largest source of imports.

Bilateral trade hit a record high of $4.11 billion in 2019. It fell to $3.61 billion in 2020, affected by the pandemic and other unfavorable factors. Jordan's exports to China stood at $426 million in 2020, according to the ambassador.

Yolcu said China can benefit from engaging in government-funded investment projects such as highway construction and maintenance. It can also target exports in sectors from clothing to electronic devices.

Jordan can benefit from Chinese expertise in agriculture, information technology, and China's provision of educational and vocational training scholarships, the ACC said.

Anis Khayati, an assistant professor in the Economics and Finance Department in the College of Business Administration at the University of Bahrain, said the quality of Jordan's human resources could be transformed through such cooperation. He cited China's efforts in introducing 5G mobile technology in the Middle East.

Regarding infrastructure, China and Jordan in 2015 signed a $7.5 billion agreement for the construction of Jordan's first power plant fueled by shale oil and a national railway project.

In 2018 the countries followed that up with a $31.5 million agreement to finance the expansion of Jordan's Al-Salt Road.

Then there has been the assistance during the pandemic. In April, China donated supplies of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine as part of the growing collaboration between the two countries.

Yolcu said Chinese financing in the form of interest-free loans or grants would help relieve the pressure on the country's public finances.

Domestically, efforts to improve Jordan's economy can be traced to a 10-year blueprint for economic and social development called Jordan 2025 that Jordan launched in May 2015.

"The various trade agreements that Jordan has signed with China can benefit both current and new investors coming to Jordan," Mdanat said.

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