OBG talks to Baroness Morris of Bolton, UK Trade Envoy to Jordan, Kuwait & the Palestinian Territories

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 Baroness Morris of Bolton, Head of UK Trade Envoy to Jordan, Kuwait and Palestine

To what extent is the unrest in nearly all of Jordan’s neighbouring countries affecting inward foreign direct investment (FDI) from the UK?

BARONESS MORRIS: Jordan is a valued friend, ally and partner of the UK, and our countries’ friendship and bilateral ties go back a long way. Now, however, as a result of the Arab Spring and the ongoing events in Syria in partic-ular, Britain has really stepped up its levels of engage-ment with King Abdullah and his government to offer its full support. In the last year, for example, a number of senior UK ministers, including the prime minister, for-eign secretary and home secretary, have all visited Jor-dan. In March 2013, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall had a successful visit, emphasising our con-fidence in the stability of Jordan and encouraging greater participation. Furthermore, immediately after I was appointed as head of the UK Trade Envoy to Jordan, Kuwait and Palestine in November 2012, I visited the kingdom with a small business delegation. This is all part of a wider effort to encourage and support political and economic reform, as we firmly believe that this is the key to a stable and prosperous Jordan. If the political and economic foundations are solid, it will help attract FDI, which is something that we are very keen to see.

To what extent are trade and commerce crucial agents of change for peace in the region? How could the UK facilitate this further?

MORRIS: In my opinion, Jordan and the wider region need to diversify their economies and, more important-ly, create much needed private sector jobs, as there has been a dependence on public sector jobs for far too long. Such a reliance is not sustainable and hinders economic reform and success. Sustainable growth and job creation will only come by developing the private sector and by encouraging and promoting trade. Whether it is in Amman, Tunis or Cairo, people want to be able to put bread on the table and provide for their families. If they can support themselves, chances for peace and stability in the region will be greatly increased.

What sectors of the Jordanian economy most inter-est British investors, and why?

MORRIS: The energy sector attracts the largest amount of UK investment. Two of our biggest companies, Shell and BP, are already on the ground and have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to date. BP is aims to exploit gas opportunities here while Shell is looking to break into oil shale. If either of these investments proves successful, the potential impact on the Jordanian econ-omy would be significant. The UK is also interested in the nuclear and renewable energy sectors, as well as the supply of LNG. With our strong track record in ener-gy, we are well placed to work alongside Jordan to help capitalise on these opportunities.

In addition to opportunities in the energy sector, there is a great potential in Jordan’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector. Jordan has a young, well-educated population and excellent pro-grammes like Oasis 500 to encourage entrepreneurs in the ICT and digital segments, creative industries offering exciting opportunities for British companies.

How can the government further enhance Jordan’s FDI appeal? What are the most significant imped-iments to greater levels of external investment?

MORRIS: Jordan should continue developing its invest-ment framework and infrastructure to attract greater investment. Bureaucracy is something we all struggle with, and Jordan is no exception. While some progress has been made, more red tape must be cut to improve legislation and make it easier for foreign businesses to invest and do business in the country.

How do you view current and future trade links between the UK and the Middle East?

MORRIS: The EU is actively working to build strong trade and investment links across the Middle East. In Jordan work has started on an EU Free Trade Agreement.

Although this is still a work in progress, it is an encour-aging development and a great opportunity for Jordan.

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