Jordan's king courts U.S. business to create jobs

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 14, 2011 1:49 PM
Jordan's king courts U.S. business to create jobs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jordan's King Abdullah II has reached out to U.S. companies in the wake of political turmoil sweeping the Middle East to help create new jobs for his country, U.S. business leaders said on Thursday.

"This king understands that times have changed, understands what's going on in the region, knows that he needs to respond to that," Myron Brilliant, senior vice president for international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told reporters at a briefing on his recent trip to Jordan.

U.S. trade with Jordan has grown rapidly to more than $1 billion annually in the 11 years since the two countries signed a free trade agreement. But U.S. foreign investment in the country remains relatively modest, Brilliant said.

Brilliant said the U.S. Chamber received an invitation from Abdullah's royal court to bring a team of U.S. companies to Amman to discuss business opportunities.

The group told the king and his top ministers that they wanted to help but would not pour investment into the country "unless we can make money," Brilliant said.

That said, Jordan is a "stable, progressive" country that has great potential as a tourist destination and as a base for doing business in the region, he said.

There are other opportunities for U.S. companies in helping Jordan develop its infrastructure and in the healthcare sector, Brilliant said.

Lionel Johnson, the business group's vice president for Middle East affairs, said the U.S. private sector also is looking for opportunities in Egypt and Tunisia, where massive protests have brought new governments to power, he said.

"We feel that our responsibility is to enable the new governments that are coming to office to have at least a fighting chance to deliver on the promise of democracy," Johnson said.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Eric Walsh)