Jordan country brief
Australia and Jordan enjoy a warm and increasingly diverse relationship, underpinned by strengthening political ties, longstanding cultural links and a small 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. King Abdullah and Queen Rania visited Australia in November 2016.
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 130-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. 2015 electoral reforms replaced the single non-transferable vote system with proportional representation.
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 population of approximately 10 million, including a large cohort of Palestinian origin (with more than two million registered Palestinian refugees). It also hosts significant numbers of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Jordan was the second Arab state (following Egypt) to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, following a peace treaty in 1994.
Jordan is a lower middle-income country. Services account for almost 70 per cent of the economy, while industry accounts for around 30 per cent. There is also a small agricultural sector. Jordan's main exports include clothing, pharmaceutical products, phosphate and potash. The main export destinations are the United States, Saudi Arabia and India. It has committed to becoming a regional centre of excellence in education, IT and health services.
Jordan has concluded free trade agreements with a number of economies, 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 cent per year. The IMF estimated a contraction in real GDP of around 3 per cent in 2020.
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). Australian institutions and Jordanian counterparts share over 50 years of cultural cooperation in archaeological research.
Jordan is coping with a large influx of refugees fleeing the conflict in neighbouring Syria. There are an estimated 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, of which approximately 650,000 are registered with UNHCR. Since 2017, Australia has committed $279 million in response to the Syria crisis, including over $105 million in support of refugees and their host communities in Jordan.
In 2014, Australia 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, 2165 and 2191 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. We also export some education services, with several hundred Jordanian students travelling to Australia each year. In 2019-20, two‑way goods and services trade was $285 million ($198 million in exports to Jordan and $86 million in imports from Jordan). Australia’s major exports to Jordan include non-beef meat ($80 million), live animals ($21 million), vegetables ($10 million) and beef ($10 million). 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. Live exports to Jordan are also covered by the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS).
Austrade's office in Kuwait 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.
In November 2016, King Abdullah and Queen Rania visited Canberra and Sydney. Their Majesties were accompanied by the former Foreign Minister, Mr Nasser Judeh. This was the first State Visit by their Majesties to Australia. King Abdullah had previously visited Australia briefly in June 2001 on his way to Timor Leste to meet with Jordanian forces serving as part of the Australian-led UN Peacekeeping Force.
There have been a number of high-level visits by Australians to Jordan, including the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Hon Sir Peter Cosgrove in October 2017; the Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, in April 2017; the Hon Michael Keenan MP in April 2017; the Attorney General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, in December 2015; Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, in November 2015 and Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, in April 2014.
A cross-party delegation of Australian parliamentarians visited Jordan and Lebanon between 23 and 28 July 2017. The visit was part of the 'Australian Aid and Parliament Project', funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, facilitated by Save The Children Australia, and supported by DFAT.