At the second Jordan-US Business Forum
9 March 2013
In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be with you for this second Jordan-U.S. Business Forum. I am glad to see some old friends and welcome some new ones.
The first of these Forums met in May 2011 - an historic time for our region. But your Forum is meeting at another important moment in time. This is a choice-point for many of you. In our region, we are seeing turbulence, some very serious - but we are also seeing tremendous new opportunities. In the world economy, the environment for decision-making remains tough, but it cannot be escaped - economies that seek to grow, enterprises that seek success, must engage across regions.
So, smart choices are at a premium. Where to invest; whom to partner with; where to put your technology centers or trade facilities or back offices - these decisions are vital. You will hear today why Jordan is the smart choice. I hope the discussions at this Forum will help you find new partners and great opportunities.
Let me say, this gathering recognizes the unique ties between our two countries. Jordan and the United States have stood together over decades - for peace; for development; for global stability.
We are proud of Jordan's pluralistic, consensual and peaceful model of democratic evolution. It’s the Jordan way, aimed at ensuring transparency and good governance, along with our pluralism, openness, tolerance and moderation.
Our model aims to maintain a level playing field, safeguards for civil liberties and political rights, and measures to reinforce the separation of powers and encourage political participation. In this “Jordanian Summer,” we are developing the proper building blocks of democratic transformation and its checks-and-balances. We are looking forward to welcoming President Obama in Jordan soon. And I hope to see real momentum in the peace process after his visit, a strategic national interest for both our countries.
Our economies are vastly different in size and scope, but the essentials are similar. In both, people are calling out for jobs and economic security; in both, inclusive economic growth is urgent after the global downturn.
We in Jordan recognize and respect the central role of the private sector and global partners in meeting these challenges. Your work is essential to create inclusive economic growth. I am especially concerned about creating jobs for young Jordanians. They are the majority of our population, they are talented, they are skilled, and they want and deserve to fulfill their potential.
More than a decade ago, our country began structural reforms, to integrate into the global economy and support opportunity. Steps included national investments in training and infrastructure, growth-friendly laws and policies, new development initiatives, heightened protection for companies, both foreign and local. Priority is now being given to an improved new generation of laws on investment and public-private partnerships.
Jordan is building for the long-term. To do that, economic and political reform must go hand in hand. We viewed the Arab Spring as an opportunity to increase our momentum. More than one-third of Jordan's Constitution was amended in 2011, we began putting new institutions and processes in place... and early this year Jordan held landmark parliamentary elections. A consultative process was launched to choose the next prime minister, and our first pilot parliamentary government will be in place soon.
Reform, like democracy, is always work in progress. But we have achieved a critical milestone. International observers praised our election's transparency and openness. Our new Parliament is more diverse and representative. Our approach grounded in consensus and inclusion. We intend our country to remain a secure, safe haven... in which our people can continue to live in confidence and mutual respect, as stakeholders in the future.
I look to the private sector to play a major role in that future. A number of industries and sectors are ripe for successful partnerships and investment. I know you will hear more about these today.
Let me mention two areas, water and energy. Jordan is one of the world's most water-poor countries. New technologies and methods are key to management and exploitation. This is an area where innovative companies can make a huge contribution. External energy dependence is also a critical national challenge. Jordan imports 96 percent of its energy needs. The problems of cost and reliability mean we must diversify energy resources. This has led us to look seriously at renewable energy - wind, solar, and nuclear power. The first Jordan-U.S. Business Forum produced new projects in renewable energy. But there are still tremendous opportunities to be explored.
These are just some of many economic openings within Jordan. But for companies and investors based here, we offer regional and global opportunities as well. Jordan's geostrategic position and positive country-to-country relationships are a proven gateway to access the MENA region’s business opportunities. Companies located here have exceptional access to new and expanding markets - with 350 million consumers and vital strategic resources.
An example is our ICT industry, which has become a prime player in the Arab World. Jordanian ICT now creates and manages 75 percent of all Arabic-language internet content from the region. You may know that the MENA ICT Forum just wrapped up its meetings at the Dead Sea... I encourage you to explore the opportunities for partnership and investment.
Beyond the region, Jordan has significant free-trade agreements accessing major economies. These open markets of over a billion consumers across the globe. We are supporting initiatives in this area with development and enterprise zones, along with transportation and communication infrastructure. Here again, trade and investment opportunities are rich, and deserve your attention. Opportunities are also ripe in professional services and engineering, agro-industries, tourism, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, education, transport and logistics.
The first Jordan-U.S. Business Forum resulted in new cooperation across several industries. I believe your work will be just as fruitful. The smart choices you make will benefit you and potentially millions of others. In doing so, you will send a message, loud and clear: Together, we can create the opportunities that will shape a better future for both countries.
I wish you the greatest success.