The “London Conference”… Where Are We on Deliverables?

By Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Sat 26 November / Nov 2016. 01:00 AM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat

Subtly, some major industrialists in Jordan admit that the chartered changes to the Euro-Zone Rule of Origin regulations are not as tempting for the domestic industrial sector as was expected, nor majorly reflective on Jordanian exportation to the EU in the future.

Blaming our products’ lack of competitiveness on the ransom costs of energy, mostly, for production, with this particular hindrance unaddressed suggests nothing is going to be changed, in regards to exportation to the European Union.

The government, on the other hand, has yet to admit the sector’s un-readiness, or unwillingness, to invest in the European redirection; efforts to entice the sector still lack depth to realise that lightening up the EU Rule of Origin regulation for Jordanian products is not really much of a solution.

So far, not much exportation has been redirected towards the European market, nor have these changes induced the kind of response that is hoped for in favour of the advancement of national industry; for instance, only one company has applied to benefit of the advantages granted to Jordanian products. In other words, all the benefits that have been extended by the European Union have not convinced the local producer and manufacturer.

That said, there must then be obstacles, other than the Rule of Origin, preventing exportation to the European market.

The aim changing and facilitating these regulations are several, and the benefits of it are supposedly shared. For example, this is intended, at least in part, to enable the economies of host countries to absorb and employ the influx of Syrian refugees, to alleviate some of the pressures on European borders. Extending facilitation allows for special industrial manufacturers in special ‘Rule’ certified industrial zones, currently 18 zones, to access European markets at a relative advantage, conditioned by the employment of 15 per cent of the host country’s total refugee population. This is supposed to also contribute to the development and industrial advancement of host economies.

Here, the condition was to employ 200 thousand Syrian refugees in industrial and other sectors, which remains difficult to meet, because Syrians are refusing industrial employment, industrialists complain. On their part, donors explain this hesitance as a result of the JOD180 monthly aid Syrian refugees receive. Additionally, there is the fact that all the efforts to regulate Syrian labour employment since the London Donors Conference have not gotten us any closer to meeting the terms of the European donors.

In figures, the total number of Syrians with labour permits in Jordan has reached 32 thousand, with the number expected to reach 50 thousand by end of 2016. The figures estimated amount to no more than a quarter of the conditional figure termed by donors at the ‘Conference’, and agreed on by the Jordanian delegation last February as a liability aimed to equally enable refugees and host countries in facing the culminating pressures of Syrian refuge in Jordan, part of which was the extension of lighter EU Rules of Origin, in addition to a USD700 million grant.

To be fair, the new Rule of Origin arrangements were signed on the 19th of July, and are effective 10 years through 2026.  Which means that we still have time to address this and thoroughly explore the obstacles holding Jordanian industrialists back from redirecting towards European markets.

To summarise, the deliverables met of the London Donors Conference are much lower than sky scraping expectations, which eventually requires more efforts to realise it all, especially in light of Jordan’s difficult and complicated economic condition, wherein the Conference does constitute an opportunity to alleviate some of the economic pressures and may window in some optimism.

Now, should the premise of the Conference be unattainable, by far, it would be wise to deliver a brave confession, contrary to what was promoted, that what indeed is attainable is not as great an economic opportunity as we had hoped it would be.