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Cablegate: Jordan's Amcham Plans Iraq Support Efforts

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (u) The Jordan-American Business Association is putting
together a program to support efforts by Jordanian companies
to assist in Iraq reconstruction efforts. The centerpiece of
the plan, which envisions a host of activities both to get
Jordanian companies into Iraq and to sell Jordan as a
springboard for U.S. companies to enter the Iraqi market,
will be a reconstruction conference to be held June 5 in
Amman. Interest in the local business community for such a
conference and related activities is high, and such a
conference should help to put Jordan in the minds of global
businesses looking for a safe, investor-friendly base from
which to explore business opportunities in Iraq. We are
contacting Washington to discuss ways to support this
conference, including encouraging U.S. primary contractors
like Bechtel to participate. End summary.

2. (u) The Jordan-American Business Association (JABA,
Jordan's AmCham), has been developing a comprehensive program
to support Iraq reconstruction efforts. This plan, which
they have dubbed "JUST for Iraq" (Jordan-US Trade for Iraq),
has two main goals: first, to make Jordanian companies aware
of opportunities in Iraq (both commercial and contracting)
and to develop the capacity of local firms to take advantage
of those opportunities; and second, to launch an aggressive
campaign in the U.S. to "sell" Jordan as a base for U.S.
companies doing business in Iraq and to promote Jordanian
companies as potential partners for Iraq business.

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JUST for the Local Market

3. (u) To realize the first goal, JABA plans to set up an
information desk, modeled on the FTA help desk they created
to support FTA implementation. This desk will serve as an
information clearing house for all issues related to Iraq
reconstruction, including updated information about both
subcontracting opportunities and procedures under current
USAID contracts, and about commercial opportunities and
procedures for conducting private sector trade and investment
in Iraq. JABA plans to offer this information as a public
service to members and non-members alike. Supporting this
desk will be a website maintained by JABA with updated news
and links to all relevant Iraq reconstruction sites (note:
this site is a duplicate of the site developed by the
Embassy; once up and running at JABA, the Embassy will
reroute "hits" on our site to the JABA site. End note.)
JABA also plans a series of workshops for interested members
and paying non-members to teach Jordanian companies how to
write subcontracting proposals, how to develop contacts in
Iraq, and the like - a sort of business development unit for
Jordanian SME's looking to break into the Iraqi market.

Selling "Jordan, Inc."

4. (u) To realize their second goal, JABA is considering
employing a U.S. consultant to represent Jordan as an
investment and partnership destination for U.S. companies.
JABA hopes this consultant will be able to make the rounds
with the U.S. primary contractors for current USAID
contracts, with U.S. business associations, and with targeted
U.S. industry and service sectors, to sell the advantages
Jordan offers for U.S. businesses looking for local expertise
in launching business operations in Iraq.
5. (u) The plan is to highlight Jordan's close historical
and cultural ties to Iraq, its ability to communicate in
Arabic with Iraqi businesses, and its track record as the
only country in the world that traded with Iraq during the
sanctions era with international acquiescence - through the
oil and trade protocol and through ongoing small-scale
commercial transactions between grain traders in both
countries. Other comparative advantages JABA will promote
will include: a strong commitment to economic openness and
reform; several tariff preference programs, especially with
the U.S., including the FTA, a Bilateral Investment Treaty,
WTO membership, and one of the region's strongest IPR
protection policies; internationally-recognized multi-modal
transportation and logistics support, notably in Aqaba;
expedited visa services and no need for a local sponsor to
conduct business in the country (in contrast to most gulf
countries); relatively inexpensive, high-quality hotels and
conference facilities (roughly one-third of the cost of
comparable arrangements in the gulf); fair weather relative
to the rest of the region; and long experience as a supplier
of high-end services to the region, including in education,
engineering, architecture, IT solutions, and consultancy.
JABA will seek support in this effort from the Jordanian
Embassy in Washington to further these efforts, and may
arrange trade delegations to the U.S. (or invite delegations
to Jordan) in the future.

Kicking Off a Reconstruction Conference

6. (u) To kick off this program, JABA is hosting (along
with three other local business associations) a day-long
conference on Iraqi reconstruction. JABA has been working
with USAID Amman, FCS, and ECON to develop the program and
recruit speakers. They hope to gain support from several key
U.S. contractors to speak at the conference, notably Bechtel,
which is already sending speakers to similar conferences in
Washington, London and Kuwait in the same time frame. They
are also reaching out to key NGO's and IO's to speak about
humanitarian assistance efforts, and are working with the
Jordanian Embassy in Washington to arrange a digital video
conference with Ambassador Kawar and select U.S. business
leaders to talk about future opportunities in Iraq. There is
already intense interest for such a conference among the
Jordanian business community, which has been lamenting for
weeks the fact that reconstruction conferences appear to be
springing up all around them, while no similar program has
been developed yet for Jordan.

7. (u) Comment: Many local businessmen have commented that
Jordan is a natural gateway to and partner for much of Iraq,
particularly for Baghdad and western and northern parts of
the country. The port of Aqaba, for instance, has
traditionally been considered a "natural" Iraqi port, and
will likely be a major conduit for humanitarian,
reconstruction, and commercial goods into Baghdad and the
north for the foreseeable future. In fact, port sources tell
us 65% of humanitarian assistance to date has transited
through Aqaba. Support for this conference will be a shot in
the arm for JABA, but also for Jordanian businesses trying to
get the country "on the map" for U.S. primary contractors and
for potential U.S. commercial partners down the road - and
ultimately for Iraq as well, by building capacity to trade
and invest in an important traditional trading partner. We
are contacting Washington agencies soon to discuss ways to
support this conference, including helping JABA recruit
speakers in the USG and the business community.

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