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Jordan: Market Profile

Picture: Jordan factsheet
Picture: Jordan factsheet

1. Overview

Over the past decade, Jordan has pursued structural reforms in education, health, as well as privatisation and liberalisation. The Government of Jordan has introduced social protection systems and reformed subsidies, creating the conditions for public-private partnerships in infrastructure and making tax reforms. However, more work needs to be accomplished so the focus on identifying steps towards enhancing the investment climate and ease of doing business can lead to concrete outcomes. Adverse regional developments, in particular the Syria and Iraq crises, remain the largest recent shock affecting Jordan. This is reflected in an unprecedented refugee influx, in disrupted trade routes, and in lower investments and tourism inflows. Other major challenges facing Jordan include high unemployment, a dependency on grants and remittances from Gulf economies as well as continued pressure on natural resources (particularly water). Moving forward, it will remain critical for Jordan to continue diversifying its energy supply in the medium term in order to reduce its macroeconomic vulnerabilities. Further sound economic policies and growth-enhancing reforms will also be necessary to reduce the country’s sensitivity to external shocks. Finally, creating conditions for increased private investment and improved competitiveness will remain indispensable for Jordan to stimulate job-creating growth.

Source: World Bank, Fitch Solutions

2. Major Economic/Political Events and Upcoming Elections

September 2016
First parliamentary elections held under proportional representation since 1989.

August 2017
Jordan and Iraq reopened their main border crossing for the first time in two years.

June 2018
Prime Minister Hani Mulki was replaced with the education minister and economist, Omar al-Razzaz.

Source: BBC country profile – Timeline, Fitch Solutions

3. Major Economic Indicators

Graph: Jordan real GDP and inflation
Graph: Jordan real GDP and inflation
Graph: Jordan GDP by sector (2017)
Graph: Jordan GDP by sector (2017)
Graph: Jordan unemployment rate
Graph: Jordan unemployment rate
Graph: Jordan current account balance
Graph: Jordan current account balance

e = estimate, f = forecast
Source: International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: August 21, 2018

4. External Trade

4.1 Merchandise Trade

Graph: Jordan merchandise trade
Graph: Jordan merchandise trade

e = estimate
Source: WTO
Date last reviewed: August 21, 2018

Graph: Jordan major export commodities (2017)
Graph: Jordan major export commodities (2017)
Graph: Jordan major export markets (2017)
Graph: Jordan major export markets (2017)
Graph: Jordan major import commodities (2017)
Graph: Jordan major import commodities (2017)
Graph: Jordan major import markets (2017)
Graph: Jordan major import markets (2017)

Source: Trade Map, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: August 24, 2018

4.2 Trade in Services

Graph: Jordan trade in services
Graph: Jordan trade in services

e = estimate
Source: WTO
Date last reviewed: August 21, 2018

5. Trade Policies

  • The Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) signed by Jordan are slowly reducing the weighted average applied tariff rate, which currently stands at a regionally average 4%. Import tariffs remain considerable for goods arriving from states not covered by FTAs, particularly for foodstuffs, clothing and other manufactured products. Beverages and tobacco face the highest tariffs, of up to 81.3%, with the next-highest duties dropping to 19.7% for fruits and vegetables.
  • Jordan joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in April 2000, and has been pursuing an open trade regime.
  • Jordan has bound its MFN tariffs on almost all products and tariffs are levied on an ad valorem basis. The applied MFN tariffs generally range between 0% and 30%, but some products, such as lighters, tobacco products, alcohol, and alcoholic beverages face a tariff up to 200%. Jordan has reduced its simple average applied MFN tariff rate from 14.7% in 2000 to 10.2% in 2014, with average rates of 17.4% for agricultural products (WTO definition) and 8.9% for non-agricultural products. Customs duties are assessed on the basis of the c.i.f. value of imports on the registration date of the customs valuation form. In 2015, there were 6,767 tariff lines in Jordan's applied MFN tariffs, out of which 33.7% of agricultural products and 56.4% of non-agricultural products were duty-free.
  • Imports of some agricultural goods remain subject to additional licensing requirements, adding to the bureaucratic burden; however, a number of reforms, including fewer physical inspections of traded goods and the introduction of online customs services, have reduced non-tariff barriers for importers and exporters. This is indicative of continuing improvements to Jordan's operating environment for businesses engaged in international trade. Logistics and security issues will also continue to hamper Jordan's cross-border trade in the short term.
  • The Jordanian government has worked to reduce the burden of bureaucracy and other-non tariff barriers for importers. Customs regulations have been standardised and streamlined to improve efficiency.
  • Companies seeking to import must obtain an importers card from the Ministry of Industry and Trade in order to clear customs. Import licenses are not required for most goods, with a few exceptions, including telecommunications equipment and some processed food products. Sanitary requirements and technical inspections can cause delays for food imports.
  • With the challenges to Middle East and European countries brought by the Syrian refugees, the EU is engaging in deeper diplomatic and trade cooperation with Jordan. In 2016, the EU committed to increasing aid to Jordan and easing origin rules for Jordanian goods. This allows products with a minimum Jordanian content of 30% to enter the EU under the EU-Jordan FTA over the next ten years. Such change offers positive long-term prospects for Jordan’s exports to the European market.
  • Jordan has not applied anti-dumping measures or countervailing duties, though safeguard measures are in place.
  • Jordan has signed preferential trade treaties, including a number of FTAs with its major trading partners.
  • In 1997, Jordan, the US and Israel reached an agreement on establishing “Qualified Industrial Zones” (QIZs) in Jordan. QIZs are designated areas where manufactured products in the zones enjoy duty-free access to the US market with no quota limit, provided that specific requirements on the rule of origins have been satisfied. Importance of QIZs has declined in the wake of the Jordan-US Free Trade Agreement concluded in 2001, under which qualified Jordanian goods entering the US market are both duty- and quota-free.
  • In recent years, Jordan has further opened up its economy to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). The Investment Promotion Law provides tax exemption on fixed assets from foreign investors for three years and duty-free import of raw materials into Jordan.
  • Border Closures: Regional instability, including the civil war in Syria and the expansion of Islamic State (IS) in Iraq has resulted in border closures which have significantly disrupted international trade. Overland supply chain routes to trade partners in the Middle East have been cut off, and access to the Iraqi market, in particular, has been restricted since 2014. The border crossing with Iraq reopened in 2017 following the removal of IS militants from the border province of Anbar, which will ease trade flows somewhat.

Source: WTO - Trade Policy Review, Fitch Solutions

6. Trade Agreement

6.1 Trade Updates

Instability in neighbouring states has forced Jordan to seek other markets for its exports, and this endeavour has been facilitated by the government's commitment to free trade and proactive seeking of numerous FTAs. Jordan has signed a number of important agreements with major economies and key trade partners.

6.2 Multinational Trade Agreements


  1. Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), comprising: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. GAFTA was declared within the Social and Economic Council of the Arab League as an executive program to activate the Trade Facilitation and Development Agreement that has been in force since January 1, 1998. Trade liberalisation is of great benefit to all member states and reduces the cost of imports to Jordan. However, regional instability and domestic security concerns has diminished the effect of this agreement and created security-related trade barriers. Bilateral FTAs between Jordan and non-MENA countries also have largely superseded this agreement.

  2. US-Jordan FTA and Economic Integration Agreement: Jordan has benefitted considerably from its extensive economic partnership with the US through a comprehensive free trade agreement that entered into force in 2001. The US is the country's top export partner and the agreement has facilitated significant US investment in higher value-add industries, such as textiles manufacturing.

  3. Jordan-EU FTA - Jordan and the EU signed an association agreement that entered into force in 2002 as part of the EU's efforts to enhance Mediterranean trade. The FTA covers trade in industrial products, as well as fish and marine products and processed agricultural products. Among the objectives of the Agreement are to promote, through the expansion of reciprocal trade, the harmonious development of economic relations. By 2014, virtually all customs duties on trade in industrial goods and fish and other marine products were eliminated. Medium-term growth is, therefore, expected in trade volumes between Jordan and this important bloc.

  4. Jordan-EFTA FTA - The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) consists of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, and its FTA with Jordan, covers trade in goods and entered into force on September 1, 2002.

  5. Jordan-Turkey FTA: Turkey is an important trade partner for Jordan, providing a key market for phosphate and fertilizer exports, as well as a source of refined fuel. Though trade flows have been disrupted by regional instability, economic ties between the two countries remain strong.

  6. Jordan also has FTAs and Economic Integration Agreements with Canada and Singapore. Though these agreements will assist with trade diversification, overall trade flows with both countries remain low compared to other FTA partners.

  7. Jordan-Agadir Agreement: The FTA between Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia (Agadir Agreement), is an FTA for trade in goods that entered into force on March 27, 2007.

  8. Pan-Arab Free Trade Area (PAFTA): Jordan is a member of the PAFTA Treaty, with members including: Egypt, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco and Yemen. The Agreement is an FTA for trade in goods and entered into force on January 1, 1998.
Sources: WTO Regional Trade Agreements database

7. Investment Policy

7.1 Foreign Direct Investment

Graph: Jordan FDI stock
Graph: Jordan FDI stock
Graph: Jordan FDI flow
Graph: Jordan FDI flow

Source: UNCTAD
Date last reviewed: August 21, 2018

7.2 Foreign Direct Investment Policy

  1. The Jordanian government has also attempted to channel FDI into certain priority sectors through legislative programmes and the JIC. Jordan's Investment Promotion Law of 1995 (amended in 2000) includes provisions for attracting FDI, as well as domestic investment, and covers many sectors, including agriculture, industry, tourism, infrastructure, utilities and R&D. Although a minimum non-Jordanian investment requirement of US$70,000 (or JOD50,000) is imposed, foreign investors in these sectors will be eligible for a number of incentives. These may include exemptions from applicable customs duties and taxes on capital goods, imported spare parts, furniture for hotels and hospitals, and salaries paid to non-Jordanian employees. The level of exemptions provided depends on the geographic location of the investment, with the country divided into three investment zones: A, B, and C, representing the most developed (Zone A) to the least developed (Zone C) areas of Jordan. Reductions and exemptions from applicable taxes and duties are available for 10 years at 25% for Zone A, 50% for Zone B and 75% for Zone C.

  2. The only sector in which foreign participation is entirely banned, is newspaper publishing, though foreigners are generally also prohibited from partial or complete ownership of security services, sports clubs, stone quarrying, customs clearance or road-based transportation. Approval for foreign investment in these sectors may be gained on a case-by-case basis, however, with the requirements that the project contribute significantly to the economy and create a large number of local jobs. Caps on foreign ownership also exist in a number of other sectors, notably in transportation, retail, and engineering, advertising and hospitality services.

  3. A number of restrictions were lifted following the signing of the FTA with the US in 2000, including in the telecommunications, tourism, health and services sectors. State-owned enterprises (SOEs) maintain a dominant presence in some areas of the economy, but do not pose a major barrier to foreign entry, and there are no significant local content requirements which puts foreign investors at a disadvantage.

  4. While FDI is welcomed into most sectors of the economy, there remain some restrictions on foreign ownership in certain industries:

    Foreign ownership is capped at 50% for enterprises in wholesale and retail trade, engineering and construction services, advertising, money exchange, restaurants and cafes, printing and publishing and auxiliary transport services.

    Foreign ownership is capped at 49% for air transport services, maintenance of road transport and maintenance of broadcasting equipment.

    Foreign participation is not permitted in passenger or freight road services, quarrying for construction materials, security services and real estate services, except in a few cases with government approval.

Sources: WTO – Trade Policy Review, the International Trade Administration (ITA), U.S. Department of Commerce

7.3 Free Trade Zones and Investment Incentives

Free Trade Zone/Incentive ProgrammeMain Incentives Available
Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA)Investors in Jordan benefit from a wide range of 'development areas', special economic zones (SEZs), industrial zones and free zones, all of which offer a variety of incentives, benefits and tax breaks for both foreign and domestic investors based within them.

The main SEZ in Jordan is located at Aqaba, covering the entire Red Sea coastline of the country as well as an international port and airport. The SEZ is intended to encourage private sector involvement in Jordan's economy, with the 20-year strategic plan launched in 2001 aiming to channel 50% of total investment into the tourism industry, 30% in services, 13% in heavy industry and 7% in light industry.

In order to achieve this, a number of incentives are offered, including financial benefits, no caps on foreign ownership and no controls over capital flows and foreign currency purchases, while streamlined immigration procedures are available, as well as a range of logistics options, including excellent access to key maritime trade routes and well-established transport infrastructure.

Further incentives include:
- A reduced flat rate of 5% income tax on net profit
- Exemption from social services tax and taxes on distributed dividends and profits
- Exemption from annual land and building taxes on utilised property
- Duty-free import of goods in commercial quantities
- No foreign equity restrictions on investments
- Streamlined labour and immigration procedures through the one-stop-shop.
- Up to 70% foreign labour permitted
Free Zones located at: Zarqa, Sahab, Queen Alia International Airport, Al-Karama, Al-KarakFree zones offer non-fiscal benefits, such as logistics services, as well as exemption from income tax on profits accrued from exported goods, exemption of employees' salaries from income and social security tax, waived customs duties, and lifted property taxes.

This vast incentive and SEZ development programme has not only encouraged FDI in Jordan, but contributed to the emergence of industrial clusters, which support growth of key industries and will further attract foreign investors to the country. There is, however, a risk that tighter fiscal policies, in line with the IMF's Stand-By Arrangement, will result in some of these generous incentives being reined in as a cost-cutting measure.

Further incentives include:
- Exemption from income and social security taxes for a period of 12 years
- Salaries and bonuses of non-Jordanian employees working in the free zones are exempt from income and social affairs taxes
- All commodities imported or exported through the free zones and bound for external markets are exempt from customs, imports and all other taxes and fees
- Premises constructed in the free zones are exempt from license fees, and land is exempt from property taxes
- The transfer of capital invested in the free zones and the profits accrued from them is permitted to anywhere outside Jordan, without any constraints or restrictions
Industrial Parks: Amman, Mafraq, Irbid and Ma'anIncentives include:
- Reduced 5% income tax rate on net profits
- Exemption from sales tax on goods sold into the development area and exemption from import duties on capital goods
- Exemption from social services and dividend tax on income earned within the development area

Source: Fitch Solutions

8. Taxation – 2018

  • Value added tax: 16%
  • Corporate income tax: 20%

Source: PwC Tax Summaries 2018

8.1 Important Updates to Taxation Informaton

As of July 2017 and going forward, the Jordanian Tax Authority will not be accepting checks nor cash payments for any due tax payment above JOD 5,000. Instead, the payment shall be done through the online payment portal (E-Fawateercom), which can be accessed through the internet banking service provided by local banks in Jordan. This threshold is reduced to JOD 3,000 as of 2018 and will be reduced to JOD 1,000 as of 2019.

8.2 Business Taxes

Type of TaxTax Rate and Base
Corporate Income Tax- 20% standard rate on operating profits
- 14% on corporate profits in the industrial sector
- 24% on operating profits of telecommunications, insurance, financial intermediation, mining, electricity production and finance leasing companies
- 35% on operating profits of banks
Withholding Taxes- 10% on royalties paid to nonresidents
- 5% on interest
Stamp Duty0.3% - 0.6% of the contract value
Value Added Tax16% on value of the products (standard rate), 4% reduced rate for selected goods, zero rate for selected goods
Payroll Tax7%-20% on a progressive basis
Social security contributions14.25% on salaries (paid by employer) up to a maximum amount determined on a yearly basis

Source: PwC Tax Summaries 2018
Date last reviewed: August 24, 2018

9. Foreign Worker Requirements

9.1 Localisation Requirements

A number of professions are reserved for Jordanian nationals only, including engineering, accounting, medicine, administration, teaching and warehousing. While there is considerable slack in the Jordanian labour market, absence of vocational or educational skills in these areas means that businesses will face difficulties filling vacancies and higher training costs.

9.2 Refugee Employment Restrictions

There are a number of barriers to employing refugees in Jordan, hindering integration into the labour market. The most notable obstacles include the cost of work permits and the difficulty for refugees to obtain the necessary documentation. Jordanian nationals are also favoured for employment by law due to high levels of unemployment in the country and the risk of social unrest.

Some measures have been introduced to ease recruitment of refugees, including waiving permit costs, and allowing companies in export zones to employ 25% of their workforce as refugees. In addition, The Jordanian government agreed with the EU to somewhat open its labour market to its massive Syrian refugee population (1.3 million registered but estimated to be more) in exchange for US$2.1 billion in grants and US$1.9 billion additional financing from 2016-2018, as part of the Jordan Compact Agreement in February 2016. As a result, issuing work permits for Syrians is being made easier, especially in low-skill sectors, such as construction and agriculture. This has consequently widened the pool of labour available for recruitment and reduced compliance risk associated with employing refugees. The government also opened its first job centre in a refugee camp in August 2017, making it much easier for refugees to register for work permits and helping further integrate them into the labour force.

9.3 Foreign worker permits

Work permits are valid for up to one year and may be renewed. The foreign worker must apply for a new permit if they wish to change jobs in Jordan.

9.4 Visa/Travel Restrictions

Individuals of all nationalities must apply for work and residency permits if they want to work in Jordan, with a priority given to Arab nationals. Work and residency permits are issued with the approval of the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Interior. An applicant may not begin working in Jordan before obtaining work and residency permits. Work and residency permits may not be transferred from one employer to another; therefore, if an employee changes employers, the previous work and residency permits must be cancelled, and the employee must apply for new work and residency permits.

The work and residency permits are valid for one year and may be renewed on an annual basis.

As a prerequisite to obtain work and residency permits, the Ministry of Labour requires the employer to submit a bank letter of guarantee to the order of the Ministry of Labour for each expatriate employee seeking work and residency permits in Jordan. Under the Jordanian Labour Law, certain occupations are exclusively reserved to Jordanians and may not be filled by non-Jordanians, such as those in the fields of medicine, engineering, accounting and administration, as well as clerical work, such as data entry and secretarial work, warehousing, hairdressing, teaching, and mechanical and car repair type of work.

Source: Government websites, Fitch Solutions

10. Risks

10.1 Sovereign Credit Ratings

Rating (Outlook)Rating Date
B1 (Stable)
S&P GlobalB+ (Stable)20/10/2017
Fitch Ratings
Not Rated

Sources: Moody's, Standard & Poor's

10.2 Competitiveness and Efficiency Indicators

World Ranking
Ease of Doing Business Index
Ease of Paying Taxes Index
Logistics Performance Index
Corruption Perception Index
IMD World Competitiveness53/6356/6352/63

Source: World Bank, IMD, Transparency International

10.3 Fitch Solutions Risk Indices

World ranking
Economic Risk Index Rank117/202
Short-Term Economic Risk Score
Long-Term Economic Risk Score46.248.349.2
Political Risk Index Rank63/202
Short-Term Political Risk Score
Long-Term Political Risk Score66.671.271.2
Operational Risk Index Rank59/201
Operational Risk Index Score58.758.658.4

Source: Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: August 21, 2018

10.4 Fitch Solutions Risk Summary

Regional instability stirred up by the ongoing wars in Iraq and Syria has had a detrimental impact on the Jordanian economy. In particular, tourism has suffered heavy losses as the risk of instability has dented the region's image abroad. Instability has also led to the export sector being severely hit by trade disruptions in the region. That said, economic activity is expected to strengthen on the back of a gradual pick-up in exports.

Jordan is one of the more prosperous and stable countries in the MENA region, owing in large part to its pragmatic foreign policy and close relationship with neighbouring states, along with strategic allies such as the US. Progressive trade and investment policies, a strong logistics network and a large, slack labour market, offer considerable advantages for foreign investors. However, Jordan's proximity to several conflict hotspots, such as the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, has caused significant issues, notably with regard to supply chain disruption, a high influx of refugees, a growing import burden and severe pressure on public services.

Source: Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: August 27, 2018

10.5 Fitch Solutions Political & Economic Risk Indices

Graph: Jordan short term political risk index
Graph: Jordan short term political risk index
Graph: Jordan long term political risk index
Graph: Jordan long term political risk index
Graph: Jordan short term economic risk index
Graph: Jordan short term economic risk index
Graph: Jordan long term economic risk index
Graph: Jordan long term economic risk index

10.6 Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index

Operational RiskLabour Market RiskTrade and Investment RiskLogistics RiskCrime and Security Risk
Jordan Score58.454.959.159.7
MENA Average47.549.348.148.444.1
MENA Position (out of 18)65766
MENA Average47.449.348.148.444.1
MENA Position (out of 18)65766
Global Average49.749.850.049.349.9
Global Position (out of 201)596463 5666

100 = Lowest risk; 0 = Highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index

Graph: Jordan vs global and regional averages
Graph: Jordan vs global and regional averages
Operational Risk Index
Labour Market Risk Index
Trade and Investment Risk IndexLogistics Risk IndexCrime and Secruity Risk Index
Saudi Arabia
West Bank And Gaza
Regional Averages47.549.348.148.444.1
Emerging Markets Averages46.848.047.545.846.0
Global Markets Averages49.749.8

100 = Lowest risk; 0 = Highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index
Date last reviewed: August 21, 2018

11. Hong Kong Connection

11.1 Hong Kong’s Trade with Jordan

Graph: Major export commodities to Jordan (2017)
Graph: Major export commodities to Jordan (2017)
Graph: Major import commodities from Jordan (2017)
Graph: Major import commodities from Jordan (2017)
Graph: Merchandise exports to Jordan
Graph: Merchandise exports to Jordan
Graph: Merchandise imports from Jordan
Graph: Merchandise imports from Jordan

Exchange Rate HK$/US$, average
7.76 (2012)
7.76 (2013)
7.75 (2014)
7.75 (2015)
7.76 (2016)
7.79 (2017)
Source: Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, Fitch Solutions

Growth rate (%)
Number of Jordanian residents visiting Hong Kong11,208

Source: Hong Kong Tourism Board

Growth rate (%)
Number of Middle Eastern residents visiting Hong Kong129,816-0.2

Source: Hong Kong Tourism Board, Fitch Solutions

11.2 Commercial Presence in Hong Kong

Growth rate (%)
Number of Jordanian companies in Hong KongN/A
- Regional headquarters
- Regional offices
- Local offices

11.3 Chamber of Commerce (or Related Organisations) in Hong Kong

The Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ARABCCI)

ARABCCI was established in Hong Kong 2006 as a leading organization at promoting commercial ties between Hong Kong/Greater China and the Arab World. From a base of 8 founding member companies, ARABCCI has now evolved to include an ever-growing number of members. The Chamber is run by business experts for business professionals, dedicated to opening enormous trade opportunities by providing extensive information and professional services to members

Address: 20/F, Central Tower, 28 Queens Road, Central, Hong Kong
Email: info@arabcci.org, secretariat@arabcci.org
Tel: (852) 2159 9170
URL: http://www.arabcci.org/home.htm

Source: The Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hong Kong

The Honorary Consulate of The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Hong Kong SAR 

Address: Room 606, Tower 1 Admiralty Centre, 18 Harcourt Road, Admiralty, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2524 0085

Source: Jordan Consulate

11.5 Visa Requirements for Hong Kong Residents

People travelling to Jordan on a Hong Kong SAR passport have visa-free access or visa-on-arrival for a duration of stay of up to 30 days.

Source: Visa on Demand

Content provided by Picture: Fitch Solutions – BMI Research