Jordan country brief

Overview

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.

Political overview

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 current Prime Minister is Omar Razzaz. He was appointed in May 2018.

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. 2015 electoral reforms replaced the single non-transferable vote system with proportional representation. Elections were last held on 20 September 2016.

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.

Economic overview

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 Iraq, the United States, Saudi Arabia and India. It has committed to becoming a regional centre of excellence in education, IT and health services.

Over the last decade, 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 forecasts GDP growth of around 2.5 per cent in 2018.

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.

Bilateral relations

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.

Humanitarian assistance

Jordan is coping with a large influx of refugees fleeing the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Approximately 660,000 Syrian refugees are registered with the UNHCR in Jordan, and the government estimates that the total number of Syrians in the country is around 1.3 million. Australia has provided and committed more than $433 million in response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria since 2011. This includes a $220 million package of region-wide assistance over three years announced in 2016, and formally pledged at the Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region conference in Brussels in April 2017. This package includes $76 million in assistance to Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities in Jordan. The assistance focuses on immediate humanitarian needs, protection from sexual violence, and access to education and livelihoods opportunities.

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 around 700 Jordanian students travelling to Australia each year. Two-way merchandise trade amounted to $159.8 million in 2016-17 ($139 million in exports from Australia and $20.8 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. 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 official visit by their Majesties to Australia, with the exception of a brief visit in June 2001 by King Abdullah to Darwin 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.

Last Updated: 23 August 2018