Statement by ITC Executive Director at the launching ceremony of the National Export Strategy of Jordan
Delivered on 27 May 2014 - Amman, Jordan
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Minister Hatem Al-Halawani,
Mr Michael Callan
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me a great pleasure to be here with you today to launch the National Export Strategy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, historically a crossroad of trade and cultures in the Middle East and today the most open economy in the region.
This is a gathering where I have no need to convince anyone of the importance of engaging with international markets. Jordan has shown its commitment to maximize the benefits from trade with continuous policy efforts. Indeed, the initiative that we are here to launch, the National Export Strategy, has been designed to maximize these gains.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Representative of Canada, Mr. Michael Callan, for his country’s contribution to Jordan’s National Export Strategy. It has its origins in ITC’s Programme for Enhancing Arab Capacity for Trade (EnACT), a regional trade capacity-building project funded by the Canadian government. It speaks of the priority given by Canada to use development assistance to strengthen the private sector and use trade as an engine for growth and job creation.
Through this Strategy, Jordan has developed a national vision for exports, a vision that builds on extensive consultations with stakeholders in the public and private sectors and with civil society to take full advantage of the preferential agreements it has negotiated. There is a caveat, however: the gains will only be achieved if this Strategy is implemented.
The potential is tremendous. The Kingdom already enjoys many advantages: it has invested in a stable macro-economic environment, it boasts of a skilled workforce and many Jordanian companies already compete successfully in international markets. This National Export Strategy aims to help Jordanian companies improve their trade competitiveness and to develop a ‘culture of quality’ to build on current success stories.
Many Jordanian companies are family-owned small and medium-sized enterprises and – like SMEs all over the world – constitute significant untapped growth potential. Jordan’s 2011 Human Development Report highlights the preponderance of SMEs, nearly 150,000, compared with 620 large companies. As the only UN agency working directly with and for SMEs, the International Trade Centre recognizes this potential of entrepreneurs and SMEs to drive economic growth. The National Export Strategy offers Jordan a unique opportunity to help its enterprises grow, sustain their export relationships and climb up the technology ladder, thereby driving Jordan‘s competitiveness.
Raising the competitiveness of SMEs and the quality of their exports would also generate a broad range of export-related activities and jobs all along the value chain.
International buyers want consistent and predictable quality standards – to improve quality control, Jordan would need to reinforce its specialized and accredited laboratories, particularly in agriculture, and would have to address, for example, the fact that enterprises often need a multiplicity of certificates – a constraint that hits SMEs especially hard.
International buyers also look for competitive prices, adequate volumes and on-time delivery. In an energy-dependent country such a Jordan, reducing input costs will be of the utmost importance and will involve improvements and modernization of production lines as well as changes in logistics, road infrastructure and customs practices.
To support these improvements, Jordan will also have to adjust its human capital and develop new skills to match its ambitions. This translates into new opportunities and quality jobs for Jordanian youth in trade-related manufacturing, agriculture, management, R&D and, of course, services, which will be a breeding ground for innovation and a tremendous potential for future growth.
I say “of course” because in recent years services have driven the highest share of value added to Jordan’s GDP – close to 70% followed by manufacturing with around 20%. No doubt you will continue this favourable trend and capitalize on the significant export opportunities that exist in regional as well as international markets.
Enterprises, big and small, need support. Key drivers of competitiveness at the national level are efficient trade support institutions such as JEDCO. They provide the information, services, support and advice necessary to make exports and innovation happen. Jordanian trade support institutions, public and private alike, have been closely involved in the design of the Strategy and are already actively responding with services that can catalyse greater competitiveness and trigger efficiency gains. To achieve this, the Strategy provides them with an opportunity to better coordinate, align and deliver services to enterprises for the export success of the country as whole.
The contribution of the Jordanian private sector to the design of this Strategy cannot be overstated and its role will be pivotal as we move into the next phase: the implementation of the Strategy that you have all worked so hard to design in a comprehensive and inclusive manner.
At this juncture, I want to commend you for the able leadership of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply in steering the design process. Agriculture, manufacturing and services are all represented in the six priority sectors: fresh fruits and vegetables; prepared and preserved meat; electrical wires and cables; paints; management consulting services; and architecture and engineering services.
The selected priority sectors include current engines of export growth and emerging services that have significant potential to drive technological development and innovation.
In order to develop sophisticated goods and services, attendant human capital needs must be addressed, and the Strategy’s cross-cutting functions will be essential – internationally recognized quality infrastructure, improved human capital and skills, reliable trade information, will yield significant returns for Jordan’s overall business environment for export development.
At ITC we are well aware of the benefits of Trade Facilitation, but in Jordan’s case the potential gains are even greater. Last year’s OECD study estimated that improving trade facilitation could lower trade-related costs for an middle income country such as Jordan up to 13%. With this National Export Strategy, Jordan can also reap the benefits of the WTO’s recent Trade Facilitation Agreement.
The intensive efforts that went into the design of the Strategy – three symposia workshops and countless subsequent workshops – are behind you. But the work has only just begun. This launch is but the first step to a more dynamic and more prosperous Jordan. The crucial implementation period lies ahead.
Clearly implementation is the ultimate key to success. It calls for effective coordination and monitoring of activities and the mobilization and efficient allocation of resources at the national level. Resource mobilization has begun and for donors it will be important to know that the detailed Plans of Action in the Strategy offer entry points for projects that are in line with Jordan’s national priorities.
The Strategy gives scope for a wide circle of donors to provide their support in addressing major challenges faced by Jordan and seizing opportunities offered by trade, a window wide open to the world.
We at the International Trade Centre are gratified to have been selected as technical adviser in the design of Jordan’s National Export Strategy and stand ready to help with any further assistance. It is an honour for ITC to support this proud nation, rich in traditions, as it steps forward towards future markets and future opportunities.
I am sure therefore, Mr Minister, that your leadership will continue to guide the National Export Strategy through implementation.