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PM urges European leaders to relax trade rules with Jordan

Prime Minister David Cameron urges European leaders to relax EU trade rules with Jordan to create new jobs for Syrian refugees.

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The Prime Minister will urge European leaders to relax EU trade rules with Jordan as part of a drive to increase support for Syrian refugees and the countries hosting them, as he arrives in Davos today for the annual World Economic Forum.

Ahead of co-hosting next month’s London conference on Syria, the Prime Minister is working to secure an ambitious package of measures that would spur economic growth and enable hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees across the region to work.

This is critical not only to improve the conditions for refugees, but also to bring them hope and the opportunity of a sustainable livelihood for their family – and reduce the incentive to make perilous journeys to Europe seeking work.

On Friday the Prime Minister will, together with Queen Rania of Jordan, bring together business and political leaders in Davos to discuss what practical steps they can take to create new economic opportunities in Jordan.

Central to the package is a request from the Jordanian government to relax rules governing exports from Jordan to the EU to make it easier for Jordanian producers to qualify for duty free access to EU markets, creating opportunities for investment and jobs.

The US already has a similar provision, allowing development of around $1 billion of Jordanian exports.

The government, working closely with key EU partners, has already been lobbying partners. The European Commission committed at Monday’s meeting of European foreign ministers to present proposals in the coming weeks.

The Prime Minister is expected to raise the issue during bilaterals with European leaders today and tomorrow, pressing for swift agreement among member states which could pave the way for the new rules to enter into force this summer.

Speaking ahead of Davos, the Prime Minister said:

Next month, we will bring together world leaders in London to talk about how we can help Syrian refugees, 5 years after they first started fleeing brutality and conflict in Syria.

In the time since, the international community has worked hard to provide vital humanitarian assistance but as each day passes the demand for more life-saving aid grows and their hopes for the future wane.

That’s why the London conference is so important. We don’t just need to agree more money and more aid. We need to agree concrete action that will give hope to so many – jobs so they can provide for their families, and education for their children.

The EU has a vital role to play – coming together to offer genuine support for Syria’s neighbours. We should swiftly agree to change the rules so Jordan can increase its exports and create new jobs.

These steps will provide real benefits to refugees in the region now, as well as enabling them to play a leading role in Syria’s reconstruction in the future.

This is not just in the interests of Syria and her neighbours. It is in the interests of Europe too. The more we do to enable people to stay in the region, the less likely we are to see them coming to Europe.

Alongside revised trade rules, the Prime Minister is also keen to secure agreement to further measures that would make it easier for Jordan to create new jobs for Jordanians and Syrian refugees alike, for example:

  • establishing designated zones where investors would be required to employ a minimum number of Syrians
  • allowing Syrians in refugee camps to run businesses in-camp and trade with host communities
  • increased investment in Jordan at preferential rates from the international finance institutions such as the World Bank

The Prime Minister’s meeting with Queen Rania of Jordan will form part of the backdrop to a global pledging conference for Syria and the Region being co-hosted by the UK, Norway, Germany, Kuwait and the UN in London next month.

As well as aiming to raise billions of dollars in international aid, the conference will also discuss how education and protection for refugees can be transformed in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

Business leaders from the UK have already visited Jordan with Business Secretary Sajid Javid to see investment opportunities in the country. And the Prime Minister will be using meetings at the Davos convention to encourage businesses from across the world to follow Britain’s lead.

Published 20 January 2016