Thank you very much and good evening.
Your Excellency Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Yarub Al-Qudah,
Chairman Bataineh, members and friends of the American Chamber of Commerce in Jordan.
Excellencies, distinguished guests,
It is a pleasure to be here with you to mark the end of a very active year of joint activities with AmCham that expanded the U.S.-Jordanian economic and commercial partnership. This partnership is built on a deep and strategic relationship that facilitated a productive 2016 and will pave the way to a successful 2017.
Despite the challenges of the regional and global business environment, 2016 was another banner year in the U.S.-Jordan commercial partnership.
From January until September 2016, Jordanian exports to the United States rose 5.5% – an increase of over 60 million dollars! U.S. exports over the same period rose 1.1%, but we typically see a boom in exports over the fall, so I expect the year-end to witness even higher growth.
The statistics clearly show a vibrant U.S.-Jordan commercial partnership that continues to prosper – year after year, thanks to the possibilities facilitated by the Free Trade Agreement and our historic and strategic partnership with Jordan. This partnership stretches to every corner of the United States and Jordan, largely driven by trade.
You all know that Jordanian garment manufacturers’ products are sold in shops and malls across the United States, facilitated by the FTA. And I’m happy to see Sanal from Classic here – I had a great tour of his facility in Dleil in August.
But did you know Petra Engineering has supplied Trump Hotel in Hawaii?
Or that Jordanian businessman Ahmad Khudary annually exports over $5 million dollars worth of Jordanian herbs and spices that are sold at Walmart locations nationwide? California is also a huge market for Jordanian goods – and not just IT solutions, but also Dead Sea beauty and cosmetic products.
Did you know that entrepreneur Amjad Al-Basha from Zarqa is exporting jameed to over 30 other U.S. states, an example of the extent of trade diversification since the FTA was signed.
The same is true in the opposite direction. When I visit the Za’atri refugee camp, I see American rice at the grocery store.
We see U.S. cars on Jordanian roads from Azraq to Aqaba. And AmCham partner Manaseer has imported Kenworth trucks from Washington that are driving across Jordan.
I fly in Boeing jets when I travel back to the United States on an American Airlines codeshare with Royal Jordanian.
The potential of the FTA is almost limitless. But this potential is not limited to imports and exports. Rather, we see huge investments on both sides, like the over $700 million that U.S. energy giant AES has invested in Jordan, and Hikma’s investments in pharmaceutical companies in the United States that now employ over 2500 Americans.
There are those who claim now is not the time to invest in Jordan, given the regional security challenges.
But it’s that same regional environment that we see attracting more U.S. firms to a secure and stable Jordan.
Today we are pleased to close out the year 2016 by welcoming the State Department’s Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Ziad Haider and the delegation of 10 U.S. firms that he is leading to explore new partnerships with Jordan.
These firms represent large manufacturers, IT giants, energy specialists, consulting firms, and investors. They bring expertise that matches Jordan’s potential, and the capacity to further build upon and complement existing Jordanian business strengths.
We look forward to hearing how their participation in this delegation will lead to new and expanded commercial partnerships with Jordan.
And these 10 firms are just one visible example of the level of U.S. commercial interest.
We continue to hear from other U.S. firms looking to expand their presence in Jordan, through regional hubs.
In 2016, we welcomed U.S. software giant Autodesk and global payments company Mastercard to Amman. U.S. based Hecate [Heh-cut-ee] Energy recently signed a power purchase agreement with Jordan, making it the first U.S. wind power project in the country.
These are just a few of the many U.S. firms that developed new partnerships this year.
To further expand the opportunities under the FTA, I am proud to announce today the signing of a new USAID $600,000 grant to AmCham to further expand our commercial relationship through the establishment of a new FTA unit in the AmCham.
This unit aims to build upon over a decade of annual growth in bilateral trade by helping more U.S. and Jordanian firms take advantage of our unique free trade agreement.
Not only will AmCham organize awareness workshops and outreach to firms, they will also provide focused services to businesses that will improve export readiness, business-to-business matchmaking and build capacity that will lead to greater market entry for Jordanian firms and increased investment opportunities.
Partnerships with entities like Connect.jo will help firms tap into the network of Jordanian diaspora professionals in the United States.
Over the next 18 months, the FTA Unit has aggressive yet realistic targets of facilitating millions in new investment, increasing exports an additional 2-3% annually over and above expected growth rates under the FTA, and seeking to create 4000 new direct and indirect jobs.
Through the Unit, AmCham will reach out and collaborate with the Chambers and Business Associations and other strategic partners to harness the private sector to take advantage of the US-Jordan FTA more than ever before.
U.S. consumers have been so impressed with the quality of Jordanian garment exports, which represent over 80 percent of the total, some firms have witnessed over 10 percent annual growth.
We are proud of this achievement and hope more Jordanian firms witness such growth in their U.S. exports. That’s what the FTA Unit will seek to do: diversify trade into a wider number of sectors and products.
Our shared goal is a robust bilateral trade relationship that benefits more and more companies and citizens.
This grant recognizes the unique and important role of AmCham in Jordan in this effort. In 2016, we and the AmCham organized a wide range of activities that showcased the potential to further build upon this year’s successes.
In January, AmCham joined our Department of Agriculture team and a number of Jordanian firms at the Gulf Food trade show in Dubai to find new opportunities for agricultural trade.
In part thanks to that trip, we saw an 18 percent increase in U.S. agricultural exports to Jordan in the first nine months of 2016.
In March, I was honored to lead a delegation of 20 Jordanian public and private sector officials, including Chairman Bataineh and CEO El-Issi, from “Washington-to-Washington” to discuss business potential both with government officials in Washington, DC, and also a wide range of U.S. private sector giants including Amazon, Boeing and Kenworth, in my home state of Washington.
One of the firms we met in Seattle, Greenfield Advisors, is now back in Jordan to advance a new investment that we discussed in March which has now come to fruition.
In April, we joined AmCham at an event with the Zarqa Chamber of Commerce aimed to diversify Jordanian exports to the United States by introducing potential exporters to the benefits of the FTA.
In May, we joined AmCham in welcoming our first Free Trade Agreement Joint Committee meetings in Amman in over four years, which was an excellent opportunity for our two governments to further support the private sector’s efforts to expand the trade relationship.
AmCham, with the Embassy’s support, also organized a campaign with Jordan’s Anti-Corruption Commission to develop a private sector code of conduct to promote transparency and a level playing field in the private sector, which was launched at the end of May.
I’m excited to see the potential for even more AmCham activity in 2017 facilitated by the new FTA Unit. However, U.S. firms are not only coming to Jordan to benefit from the Free Trade Agreement. As I mentioned, we are also seeing U.S. firms keen to use Jordan as a regional hub and we are supporting efforts to expand Jordan’s regional trade opportunities.
The United States is committed to seeing Jordan’s border with Iraq reopened and our colleagues in Baghdad are working closely with Iraqi authorities as they review proposals to improve the Baghdad-Treibil road to Jordan.
We are also working with the Jordanian government to facilitate trade to the West Bank, and tomorrow I will visit the King Hussein Bridge to discuss logistical improvements underway to promote passenger and commercial trade. In February, I had the honor of donating a new cargo scanner that has improved cargo flows across the bridge and facilitated container traffic for the first time.
Finally, the United States, through USAID, is supporting Jordanian public and private sector efforts to expand exports to Africa, and we look forward to Minister Al-Qudah’s successful visit to Kenya next week.
As the United States welcomes a new Administration to Washington in January, you can be certain Jordan will continue to enjoy unprecedented support. Our partnership with Jordan is one of our most important in the region.
As the region has turned more volatile in the last five years, Jordan has shown its commitment to serving as a beacon of peace and security and supporting its neighbors at their time of need. As President Obama said, America is lucky to have a friend like King Abdullah.
In February, under the visionary leadership of His Majesty, announced the Jordan Compact, which seeks to turn the refugee crisis into an opportunity for growth and prosperity, not only for Jordanians but also for the hundreds of thousands of Syrians seeking refuge in Jordan who aspire to return to Syria with the skills and experience needed to rebuild it.
In recognition of its essential role at this critical time, Jordan has strong bipartisan support from both Republicans and Democrats, making it uniquely placed to immediately develop a strong partnership with new Administration officials and members of Congress.
And I am pleased to welcome here with us tonight Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Richard Albright, who helps oversee the over 1.6 billion dollars of U.S. assistance to Jordan this year, just one tangible example of our government’s commitment to Jordan at this extraordinary time.
I am optimistic 2017 will bring even more success for the U.S. and Jordanian private sector.
AmCham’s growing membership and partnerships demonstrate the private sector is also optimistic. In 2016, 61 new members joined AmCham, which welcomed nine new partners who will be recognized tonight.
Today we are pleased to join AmCham in welcoming new partners, all of whom are committed to further growth in the U.S.-Jordan commercial relationship.
I was going to name them, but the list is so long it’s impossible to recognize them individually before you have dinner.
But I would like to take a moment to express my deep appreciation for the work of AmCham Chairman Mohammed Bataineh and CEO Rose El-Issi, both of whom have been critical to our 2016 success and our 2017 aspirations.
I wish them and all AmCham partners and friends a prosperous 2017.
Thank you and good evening.