Jordanian Prime Minister Maruf al-Bakhit visited Iraq last week for the opening of a Jordanian consulate in Erbil that officials hope will help boost economic ties between the two countries.
Dr. Barham Saleh, prime minister of the Kurdish region, attended the event as did a Jordanian ministerial delegation.
Speaking to journalists on September 12th, al-Bakhit said the consulate will be staffed with advisors on trade and health issues. Other personnel will be provided according to regional needs.
The two sides discussed ways to increase cooperation and exchange expertise in several areas including water resources management, energy, work and training, university education, medicine, pharmaceutical supplies, software, e-government and media.
Majed al-Saadi, an Iraqi businessman and president of the Iraqi-Jordanian Business Council, said, "Reconstruction and building activities are occurring in all parts of Iraq. The consulate in Erbil is important for obtaining visas, facilitating the movement of businessmen between the two countries, and overseeing Jordanian interests there."
He said several factors serve business between the two countries, including geographical proximity and the ease of movement and investment between traders and businessmen. Al-Saadi said flights connect Amman to Baghdad, Basra, and Erbil.
He said he hopes officials will open another Jordanian consulate in Basra to strengthen cooperation between Iraq and Jordan, which he said has grown considerably.
Khalid Rababha, a Jordanian economist, stressed the importance of Iraqi investments in Jordan. He said Iraqis are among the leading investors in Jordan as they are involved in several sectors such as real estate and finance.
"Consulates usually play a role in strengthening trade relations," he said. "Amman is considered a leading medical center in the Middle East and has several advanced educational institutions that Iraq can benefit from."
According to the Jordanian Ministry of Planning, the volume of trade between Jordan and Iraq rose by 29 percent during the first half of 2011 to a record 412 million dinars ($577 million) compared with 320 million dinars ($448.3 million) for the same period in 2010.
There are 3,234 Iraqis investors in the Jordanian stock market. Iraqi investors own 71 million securities that are valued at 255 million dinars ($357 million).
Jordanian industrialist Thabet el-Wor said the growth in trade between Jordan and Iraq has compensated for the decline in Jordanian exports to other countries.
"The strong relations between the two countries' traders and businessmen have pushed these figures upward," he said.
El-Wor said Iraq benefits from Jordan in terms of reconstruction and development projects and the facilitation of transit trade coming through the port of Aqaba. The Jordanian side benefits from being able to increase exports to Iraq.
Iraq and Jordan are members of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area.
The value of Jordan's imports from Iraq during the first half of 2011 was 75 million dinars ($100 million). Jordan is active in the re-export market to Iraq which amounted to $77 million dinars during the first half of the year.
Jordan and Iraq also agreed on September 11th in Amman to raise the quantities of crude oil Jordan imports from Iraq from 10,000 barrels per day to 15,000 barrels. Iraq also agreed to provide Jordan with about 30,000 tons of heavy fuel oil per month for electricity production.
Jordanian Energy Minister Khaled Touqan and his Iraqi counterpart, Abdul Karim al-Luaibi, announced the agreement following talks in Jordan.