NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH

Saudi Arabia 2016 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to HE Dr. Jawad Anani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade of the Kingdom of Jordan, on supporting bilateral economic development, regional security, and goals for the future of the two countries' relations.

HE Dr. Jawad Anani,
BIOGRAPHY
HE Dr. Jawad Anani is the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply. He earned a PhD in economics from the University of Georgia. He became the Deputy Minister of Labor in 1979, and went on to become the Minister of National Economy and Labor. In 1993, he became the Minister of Information and the Coordinator of the peace process with Israel. In 1997, he became Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs and Foreign Minister. He became a senator in 2013 when he chaired the energy committee and served as rapporteur for the Finance and Economic Committee.

In what ways can Jordan and Saudi Arabia cooperate to mutually benefit the national economies and increase trade?

In the long run, Jordan and Saudi Arabia can reach a single market status, where freedom of movement is guaranteed for people, capital, goods and services. Moreover, the two countries should have by that time completed the infrastructures required to bind their economies in a most efficient manner. If we look at the potential of the two countries, we see that each has its comparative advantages. If investments are streamlined, then we can create partnerships on both sides where the imports of one are offset by profits generated for the other. Benefits of cooperation are not only limited to the production of goods, but also in the production of services, such as healthcare, tourism, logistics, transportation, Red Sea naval transport, and technological research. I believe that if we look closer, we will be both intrigued by the plethora of opportunities to enhance exchange between Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and which are still waiting to be tapped.

How would you characterize the importance of collaboration between the two kingdoms in terms of ensuring regional security?

Let us look at the geopolitical situation of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Jordan is situated on the borders of the Gulf region and the Saudi Arabian borders are Jordan's longest. Iraq, Syria and historical Palestine are Jordan's neighbors. The Iranians have at this time a sphere of influence which reaches both Syria and Iraq. On the other hand Saudi Arabia faces the same Iranian hegemony in Iraq and Yemen. Both countries also face the potential of new wars unless the Palestinians gain their historical and sovereign rights in the West Bank and Gaza. Terrorism is also a danger lurking behind our direct borders. It also could pose a threat until we uproot its sources, particularly poverty and unemployment. Both countries, and with a close cooperation with the Gulf States, can build a solid political, military, and economic front that can withstand these potential dangers. We both should foster our relations for our future security and prosperity.

What are the major short-term goals regarding Jordanian-Saudi bilateral relations?

As some may recall, 2016 witnessed a qualitative shift that we, in Jordan, hope will be translated into tangible agreements in our bilateral relations and physical institutional presence, which can further our cooperation. The visit of His Royal Highness Prince Mohammad Ibn Salman to Aqaba and meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah II produced a joint communiqué where both countries agreed to embark on mutual feasible mega-projects. Later, HM King Abdullah II travelled to Saudi Arabia and met with his Brother the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques King Salman Ibn Abdel–Aziz and a MoU was issued, calling for greater cooperation in all areas of human endeavor. In Jordan, we passed a law titled Jordan Investment Fund, where amenities and exemptions are offered to big projects needed in Jordan and leading to the strengthening of mutual relations. The law specifically referred to railroads, and pipelines, electricity connection and others. We have already set in motion the creation of a multi–billion dollar corporation which will be open mainly for Saudi and other Gulf Sovereign Funds, Private banks and institutional investors as well as individuals. All projects will be subject to feasibility tests and will produce profits to investors. The government of Jordan is preparing a number of agreements in the fields of energy, agriculture, transportation, industry, investment, double taxation, and projects to be all discussed by the Coordination Committee headed by HRH Prince Mohammad Ibn Salman and the Prime Minister of Jordan, Dr. Hani Al-Mulki. We look forward to a high level meeting when these agreements are signed, and when the multi–billion cooperation is created in 2016 to start implementing the mega projects needed to put our mutual relations on a wider, longer, and deeper track.