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Australia and Jordan enjoy a warm and increasingly diverse relationship, underpinned by strengthening political ties, longstanding cultural links and a small but growing trade relationship. Australia established diplomatic relations with Jordan in 1975. The Jordanian Embassy in Canberra was opened in 1976 and the Australian Embassy in Amman was established in 1979.
Jordan is a constitutional monarchy. The current monarch, King Abdullah II ibn Al-Hussein, is Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The King exercises executive authority through the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the King and advises on the appointment of other Ministers of the Cabinet. The 1952 Constitution provides for a bicameral National Assembly, with a 110-member House of Representatives, also known as the House of Deputies, elected by direct universal suffrage, and a 55-member Senate, also known as the House of Notables, appointed by the King. In the House of Deputies a number of seats are set aside for women, and various religions and ethnicities.
Elections were held on 9 November 2010, after the previous parliament was dissolved by the King in November 2009, halfway through its four year term. An interim Cabinet, lead by Prime Minister Samir Rifai, was appointed and tasked with enacting new parliamentary and electoral laws in advance of elections. The election appears to have been successful, despite a boycott by the main opposition group, the Islamic Action Front. Almost all parliamentary candidates were independents, and the new parliament is likely to again be dominated by representatives of tribes loyal to the ruling Hashemite dynasty.
King Abdullah’s 2004 "Amman Message" sets the framework for a broad policy of seeking to reclaim the reputation and practice of Islam from extremism. The promotion of moderate Islam and interfaith understanding are recurring themes of the King’s speeches at home and abroad. Jordan has suffered terrorist incidents in recent years, including the 2005 bombing of three Amman hotels in which 60 people were killed.
Jordan is committed to progress on Middle East Peace. The country has a large Palestinian population with more than one and a half million Palestinian refugees. Jordan is one of only two Arab States (the other is Egypt) that has a peace treaty with Israel, concluded in 1994.
The Jordanian economy is small and narrowly based, but a series of reforms are positioning it as an emerging regional centre.
The King has prioritised economic reform as a means to reduce unemployment and poverty, including through public sector reform and trade liberalisation. Structural reforms have been aimed at promoting private sector-led growth and foreign investment, while reducing the direct government role in the economy.
Over the last decade, Jordan has concluded free trade agreements with a number of countries, including the United States,the European Union, Canada, Singapore, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and the UAE. Prior to the effects of the global financial crisis, Jordan was experiencing robust GDP growth of around 8% per year. The IMF estimated GDP growth of around 3% in 2009.
Jordan's main exports include clothing, pharmaceutical products, phosphate, potash and fertiliser. There is a growing likelihood Jordan will become an exporter of uranium ore. It has committed to becoming a regional centre of excellence in education, IT and health services - all areas where there may be scope for collaboration with Australia.
Australia and Jordan share a warm relationship with valuable historical dimensions dating back to the First World War (when Australians served as part of the Allied forces in the region, including modern-day Jordan, alongside the Sharif of Mecca’s forces in The Great Arab Revolt against the Ottomans) and including over 50 years of cultural cooperation in archaeological research. The political and economic relationship has expanded through regular high-level contact, including by ministers, parliamentary delegations and regular discussions by senior officials in a range of areas. The most recent visit by an Australian minister was by the Minister for Resources and Energy in 2009. King Abdullah made a brief visit to Darwin in June 2001 en route to East Timor to meet with some of the 3,000-strong contingent of Jordanian forces serving in East Timor as part of the UN Peacekeeping Force. Although Australia does not provide a formal bilateral development assistance program to Jordan, the two countries have a track record of cooperation on development issues, including capacity building of officials from regional countries. In 2009, Australian government assistance through third parties to border management and refugee welfare issues in Jordan was estimated at between A$6-15m (some programs being implemented across Jordan’s borders in neighbouring regions). In April 2010 Australia provided $1 million for land mine clearance on Jordan’s northern border, building on an earlier $1 million provided in 2006-07.
Bilateral commercial relations are modest and strongly in Australia’s favour. Principal exports to Jordan are live sheep and cattle, dairy and meat products. Two-way trade amounted to AUD 156m in 2009-10. Imports from Jordan, mainly fertilisers, amounted to AUD 7m. The postgraduate education sector in Jordan is also a growing market for Australian universities. In 2005 Australia concluded an MOU with Jordan on live animal shipment in order to underpin the trade and ensure respect of international animal welfare standards.
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