Jordan, Singapore sign tourism, culture accords and look ahead to trade pact

His Majesty King Abdullah on Sunday said Jordan is looking forward to copying Singapore’s advanced model in attracting foreign investment, qualifying human resources and upgrading performance of public agencies, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported. During talks he held with Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, the King said Jordan is interested in better relations between the Arab world and Asia, particularly in the economic field.

He announced that his visit to Malaysia, scheduled during the second half of the current month, falls within this Arab-Asian economic cooperation as he will be patron at an economic forum bringing together members of the Arab Economic Council and Asian peers. He added the Kingdom is looking forward to investments from Singapore and other Asian countries, noting that these projects will enjoy the incentives offered by the Jordanian economy.

The King and Tong expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the negotiations the two sides held in Amman during the Singapore premier’s current visit to the Kingdom.

Earlier Sunday, Jordan and Singapore signed agreements to bolster tourism and cultural exchanges between them and discussed plans to seal a free trade pact as soon as possible.

“We hope that the signing of the agreements on tourism and culture will pave the way for the signing of. .  .  a free trade pact in the near future,” Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Halaiqa told .

Tong said they hoped to finalize the trade pact “after June.”

“There has been tangible progress during this visit,” he said.

Jordan and Singapore initiated talks on the pact last year and expect the deal – the first between Jordan and an Asian country – to complement liberalization efforts under the World Trade Organization (WTO), Agence France-Presse said.

A member of the WTO, Jordan is the only Arab country to have a free trade agreement with the United States. Singapore has concluded such pacts with the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the European Free Trade Association comprising Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The accords sealed Sunday call for encouraging tourism between the two countries as well as exchanging information and expertise concerning museum management and the restoration of archaeological sites, Halaiqa said.

During a meeting late Saturday, Tong and Prime Minister Faisal Fayez discussed the political future and reconstruction of Iraq.

Fayez called for “the creation of joint ventures between Jordan and Singapore capable of competing in the efforts for the development and reconstruction of Iraq.”

Tong arrived Saturday in Jordan on the second leg of a regional tour he began in Cairo, where he said after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that Egypt and Singapore would sign a free trade pact as well.

The agreement “would serve as a bridge between Asia and the Middle East, because between Egypt and Singapore, we believe others would be able to sign on to similar free trade agreements between the two regions,” he said.

Tong wraps up the tour aimed at building trade ties with Arab countries with a visit Tuesday to Bahrain for talks with King Hamad Ben Issa Al Khalifa. Bahrain, which like Singapore has to contend with a fresh water shortage, has expressed interest in the South East Asian nation’s advanced water recycling and treatment technology.

Tong is accompanied by Foreign Minister S. Jayakumar and senior economic officials.

By Yousef Hasanat
eTN Jordan

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