Jordan Country Brief
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.
System of Government
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 150-member House of Representatives, also known as the House of Deputies, elected by direct universal suffrage, and a 75-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 last held on 23 January 2013. Most representatives are independents. The only significant organised political party, the opposition Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamic Front, boycotted the elections
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 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.
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 2012.
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.
The Syrian crisis has had a significant impact on Jordan’s economy, straining current infrastructure and resources. In addition, Syria was a key trading partner for Jordan, and Jordan’s primary transport route for trade with Europe.
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.
Jordan is coping with a large influx of refugees fleeing the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Approximately 619,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the UNHCR in Jordan, and the government estimates that the total number of Syrian refugees is up to 1.5 million. Australia has provided $135.8 million in response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Of this, $71.3 million has gone to support refugees and their host communities in neighbouring countries, including Jordan. Most recently, Australia provided $20 million to the No Lost Generation strategy to improve access to education for refugee and host community children in Lebanon and Jordan.
In 2014 Australia has worked closely with Jordan on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Together with Luxemburg, Australia and Jordan co-authored UNSC Resolutions 2139 and 2165 on humanitarian access.
Trade and Investment
Bilateral commercial relations are modest. Australia’s principal exports to Jordan are live sheep and cattle and meat products. Two-way trade amounted to $216 million in 2013 ($204 million in exports from Australia and $12 million in imports from Jordan).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.
Austrade's office in Riyadh is responsible for Jordan. Austrade's web site has information on doing business in Jordan and market profiles of priority sectors, such as education, food and health and medical.
High Level Visits
The political and economic relationship has expanded through regular high-level contact, including by ministers and parliamentary delegations.
The most recent high-level visit was by Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, in April 2014.The then-Governor-General, Her Excellency Quentin Bryce, visited Jordan in September 2012.
In June 2001, King Abdullah made a brief visit to Darwin on his way to Timor Leste to meet with Jordanian forces serving as part of the Australian-led UN Peacekeeping Force.