Spurring Bilateral Trade with the United States: USAID Support to the American Chamber of Commerce in Jordan
The American Chamber of Commerce in Jordan (AmCham), a key JCP grantee and partner, has been carrying forward USAID-supported activities aimed at boosting Jordanian exports to the United States. The rapid progress of this activity saw the formal launch of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Unit at AmCham and the establishment of the coalition of potential Jordanian exporters known as the Tijara Coalition, which has already conducted several business-to-business (B2B) activities pairing local firms with prospective buyers in the United States.
The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Jordan and the United States, originally signed in 2001, paved the way for a vibrant trade relationship between the two countries, one that has ushered in an 800 percent increase in bilateral commerce, including a 4.5 percent boost in Jordanian exports to the United States in 2016 alone. With USAID support, the American Chamber of Commerce in Jordan (AmCham) has been a leading proponent of this vital trade relationship, which has helped Jordan weather the economic pressures brought on by multiple regional crises.
A grant from the USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program (JCP) to AmCham has yielded significant gains in Jordan's quest to further leverage the FTA. These gains have included establishment of a dedicated FTA unit at AmCham, which, along with a national Tijara (Arabic for “Trade”) Coalition, has facilitated several trade missions in the last year alone. Through these and other AmCham activities, this USAID grant has already generated $844,010 in new exports, representing a 100 percent return on USAID's investment.
In October 2018, JCP extended the AmCham grant to include additional support aimed at strengthening the Tijara Coalition as well as assisting some 55 Jordanian companies with current or potential exports to the United States. As part of the program's ongoing work, JCP is supporting 25 Jordanian enterprises to grow and diversify their exports to the United States; organizing six training sessions building the capacity of 30 Jordanian companies to export; and contributing to at least five additional meetings of the Tijara Coalition.
From its inception, the JCP grant has focused its resources on ensuring that AmCham and its partners have the right tools, procedures, training, and networks in place to continue their efforts to increase trade and investment between the two countries. This has included organizing widely attended events aimed at building the awareness and capacity of Jordanian entrepreneurs to think creatively about their competitive advantage in regional and global markets -- including the U.S. market.
One example of this is the annual AmCham MENA Conference and Exhibition, which was held in 2018 with support from JCP. Dubbed “Commercialization of Innovation: A Driver for Growth in the MENA Region,” the two-day event brought together approximately 250 business leaders, business personalities, and policymakers from the United States and across the Middle East and North Africa to explore regional and global case studies of how innovation can boost economic activity and drive growth. AmCham seized the opportunity of the conference to promote an upcoming trade mission to the United States called “Silicon Valley to Silicon Slopes,” which aims to assist service-sector enterprises with the competitive leverage to penetrate the U.S. market.
Deputizing for His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hussein, HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan stressed that "innovation and entrepreneurship are neither alien nor imported concepts in our national or regional consciousness. Indeed, they have the longest history in our territory of Jordan." Participants heard from experts and practitioners on the latest developments in energy, healthcare, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), education, and finance and discussed measures needed to create innovation-powered enterprises. The conference included an exhibition showcasing innovations by local and regional enterprises. AmCham also seized the opportunity to promote an upcoming trade mission to the United States, called “Silicon Valley to Silicon Slopes.” The mission reached service-sector enterprises with the competitive leverage to penetrate the U.S. market.
Previously JCP also supported AmCham and the U.S.-based Tent Foundation for Refugees in hosting a pair of Investor Forums in New York and San Francisco targeted to socially-conscious U.S. companies and foundations interested in learning more about Jordan’s value proposition. Attended by representatives of international development organizations and distinguished members of Jordanian and American businesses, the forums were held on June 25, 2018 in New York and on June 28, 2018 in San Francisco to raise awareness of the private-sector role in addressing humanitarian crises like that caused by the Syrian refugee influx to Jordan.
Through these and other initiatives, AmCham has so far supported 29 companies to export to the United States. Thanks to AmCham’s efforts, Jordanian companies have relocated their manufacturing operations to Jordan, bringing $15 million in investment to the country. Other companies have reported export increases of approximately $600,000 due to their participation in trade missions to the United States organized by AmCham with USAID support.