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Jordan, Canada celebrate FTA launch, highlight benefitsTuesday, October 09, 2012 > 10:32:33
Canadian official says Kingdom can be Ottawa's gateway to Mideast
AMMAN -- The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Jordan and Canada was the first to win unanimous support of the North American country's parliament, according to a Canadian official.
Canadian Minister of International Trade Ed Fast expected the treaty, which went into effect October 1, to bring significant benefits for both countries in terms of trade and investments.
Indicating that Canada has 14 free trade agreements around the world and is negotiating over 50 others, Fast told reporters that the FTA between Amman and Ottawa is the only one to win the unanimous support of the Canadian parliament.
The Canadian official, who is currently visiting the Kingdom to celebrate the FTA launch, said he is also leading a trade mission that includes 11 companies to explore business opportunities in Jordan.
Fast also met with Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh, Minister of Industry and Trade Shabib Ammari and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, according to the Jordan News Agency, Petra.
"We are very pleased that both countries see each other as trusted and liable partners. Canada considers Jordan as one of the moderate and stable voices in the Middle East; a country that we can do business with," he said.
Noting that Canada has been a leader in the fight against protectionism around the world, Fast noted that Jordan shares Canada's view on liberalisation of the economy and the removal of trade barriers as the way forward for economic growth.
On the reasons the treaty with Jordan won unprecedented parliamentary support, he explained that Canada sees Jordan as a partner since both share common values and a common approach to economy.
"We also saw that Jordan is the best opportunity for Canada to establish a hub or a gateway into the Middle East."
This agreement represents a real opportunity not only to increase economic cooperation but also to access other markets in the region, Fast explained, noting that although the Middle East has tremendous economic opportunities, it also faces significant challenges.
What set Jordan apart from other regional countries is that it is moderate and stable and Canada appreciates that, he added.
Jordan is the only Arab country to have an FTA with Canada, according to the minister, who indicated that Ottawa is in negotiations with Morocco to reach a similar deal.
Responding to a question that the private sector in Jordan has opposed the free trade agreements with some industrial countries as such accords would not serve the commercial interests of the Kingdom, Fast said that when Canada negotiates an FTA, especially with developing countries, it sees that it can contribute to the prosperity of other countries in addition to contributing to democracy building and peace.
"Our FTA with Jordan eliminates export tariffs to Canada so Jordan will have tariff-free access to the Canadian market, while going the other way we agreed given Jordan's circumstances that it would be more fair if we phase out tariffs on the Jordanian side over a period of three to five years," he elaborated.
"We believe it is a win-win situation."
On the expected benefits of the treaty, Fast cited the example of the FTA between Canada and the US that was signed 25 years ago.
Trade between the two neighbouring countries has tripled in 25 years, and Canada's gross domestic product has also gone up by over $1 trillion, he remarked.
Trade between Jordan and Canada
According to Fast, trade between Jordan and Canada is around $89 million, a figure he described as modest, making it necessary to have an FTA.
He mentioned that trade volumes are heavily weighed in favour of Canada.
"We want to see this balance corrected. There is an opportunity for Jordan to increase its exports to the Canadian market," he added.
The official also noted that Canada's investments in Jordan are around $1.2 billion, expecting more Canadian businesspeople to pay attention to Jordan once they become familiar with the FTA.
One of the challenges for Canadian companies is that they are very cautious, he said. Canada is a cautious country and that is why it enjoys the safest banking system in the world, according to Fast, who stressed that FTA and the investment protection agreements between both countries would send a "very significant signal" to Canadian companies.
Fast described Canada's economic performance as one of the best in the developed world, saying that among the G-7 countries it has the lowest corporate and business taxes, which makes the country an attractive destination for investments.
"We are among few countries that have the lowest debt and deficit levels... We expect the budget to be balanced in the medium term, 2015 or 2016."
He said that since 2009, when the global recession deepened, Canada has created over 800,000 new jobs.
© Jordan Times 2012