|Wikileaks:||View 02AMMAN3296 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||ETRD EINV IS JO|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 AMMAN 003296 SIPDIS STATE PASS USTR FOR NED SAUMS USDOC FOR 4520/ITA/MAC/ONE/PTHANOS STATE PASS USAID FOR MSCOVILL TREASURY FOR PIPATANAGUL E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/12/2012 TAGS: ETRD, EINV, IS, JO SUBJECT: JORDAN: TRADE MINISTRY IN TALKS WITH ISRAEL TO RESTRUCTURE QIZ REQUIREMENTS Classified By: DCM Greg Berry, reasons 1.5(b,d) ------- SUMMARY -------- 1. (c) GOJ Trade Ministry officials tell us they have begun talking to their Israeli counterparts about improving current QIZ operations and regulations. The GOJ's proposals include both improvements to existing logistical procedures as well as changes to the structure of required Israeli inputs into QIZ goods. The GOJ hopes improvements agreed to through these talks will help spur new investment in the QIZ's following stagnation of new investment into the sector since 2001. If proposed improvements take hold, there could be a measurable impact on the sustained competitiveness of QIZ's and some diversification of the manufacturing base under the initiative. End summary. 2. (c) Jordanian Trade Ministry Secretary General Samer Tawil said he is in active discussion with his Israeli counterparts to improve the functioning of the QIZ initiative. The ministry is building its position around a report on QIZ sustainability recently completed by a trade expert contracted for the Ministry by the USAID-funded Jordan-US Business PArtnership for that purpose (report to be pouched to NEA/ARN). The ministry's position also reflects a number of long-standing concerns voiced by QIZ exporters over the past two years about inefficiencies in QIZ procedures and rules. --------------------- New Procedures Sought --------------------- 3. (u) Recommendations in the report fall into two broad categories: procedural adjustments to current QIZ product processing requirements, and adjustments to the sub-regulations on rules of origin and Israeli content requirements. In the first category are a number of seemingly sound recommendations. The first is a recommendation to extend and institutionalize the use of the on-line QPR (qualifying product registration) approval process developed with USAID assistance last year. The program is not widely used now, due in part to early technical glitches and in part to lack of awareness among exporters that the system is available. Widespread use of the system could greatly reduce QPR approval times on the Jordanian side, and adaptation of the program to Israeli QIZ auditing processes could have a similar effect on the Israeli side. 4. (sbu) The second recommendation of the study is to extend the validity of QPR's beyond the current period of 12 months, which would allow exporters to continue production on identical styles year-on-year without clogging the QPR approval pipeline with what amount to pro-forma approvals. The third recommendation is for more frequent meetings of the Israel-Jordan joint committee for QIZ issues. The committee, which is also supposed to include observers from the USG as needed, has met at best sporadically in the past two years, according to Tawil. Finally, the report recommends creation of a storage facility at the Gateway QIZ for stockpiling Israeli inputs. Following the sharp spike in violence in the West Bank in the spring, many manufacturers have concerns about disruption of access to inputs during another regional crisis. Having a store of inputs at Gateway could ease those tensions. 5. (c) Most of the procedural recommendations make intuitive sense, though some - like the Gateway project - are probably better handled through private sector initiative. More sweeping, though, are proposals for changes to current Israeli content rules under the QIZ initiative. Many of these ideas are based on long-standing gripes from exporters that Israeli inputs are too expensive and/or not of acceptable quality, but must be used because of current content requirements. However, the GOJ's arguments are becoming more sophisticated, and are even beginning to show an interest in a solution that will benefit both sides. ----------------------------- New Israeli Content Proposals ----------------------------- 6. (c) The GOJ's opening position in its talks with Israeli counterparts, says Tawil, will be to secure a straight reduction in Israeli content from 8% to 4% for textiles, with an offer by the GOJ to accept an "increase" of content requirements on hi-tech, jewelry, and medical/surgical goods to 11.7% (note: under the current agreement, the 8% content requirement is a temporary measure, with content due to be reset to 11.7% for all goods in February 2004. End note). According to MoIT officials, the fallback GOJ position (not elucidated in the study) is to propose a sliding scale of content requirements for textiles, starting at 8% (or more, depending on the good) for low-end products like T-shirts and underwear and sliding to 4% or even 2% for higher-end goods including suits, evening wear, leather apparel, and the like. 7. (c) At the same time, the GOJ is making a parallel proposal to move from per-item pre-production audits to year-end cumulative audits to certify Israeli content. The end result of such a switch would be the same as a sliding scale - the governments would need to verify only the 8% Israeli content on total exports by a given company, allowing them to produce some goods with more than 8% content, and some with less, over the course of the year. --------------------- Jordan's New Approach --------------------- 8. (c) While the proposals are not shockingly new, the rationale behind them is. The GOJ argues, with some accuracy, that the current set-up restricts the growth of the QIZ's out of low-end garment production, due to the difficulty of meeting the 8% content rule for high-end goods due to the limited availability of suitable, price-competitive inputs from Israel. They argue that the proposed changes in content rules will attract a wider variety of manufacturers, which will in turn substantially boost production, thereby leading to a net increase in Israeli inputs sold, even at lower percentages. The GOJ thus sees lowering - but not eliminating - Israeli content as a gain for both sides. The GOJ also argues that, as the U.S.-Jordan FTA matures, the relative benefit of production under the QIZ initiative will vanish, leaving exporters in Jordan with little incentive to continue doing business with Israel, where input prices are seen as high and quality low. Thus they will argue that making content requirements more flexible will help make production of Israeli inputs a more sustainable business. ------- Comment ------- 9. (c) With new investment in the QIZ's relatively stagnant in 2001, the GOJ is eager to find a way to jump-start interest in the QIZ's without undermining the basic philosophy of Jordanian-Israeli cooperation that underpins the initiative. The GOJ has parroted for months the narrow interest of exporters in minimizing Israeli content requirements. It seems they may have finally found a way to package a proposal that will show the Israeli side its interest in more flexible content rules, as well as boosting the initiative as one of the benefits of the peace process that is supporting economic growth and stability in Jordan. Taken together, the content and procedural proposals could indeed spark diversification in the QIZ's and as a result increase business on both sides of the border. Getting there, though, will mean convincing Israeli input producers to reduce their guaranteed business in what amounts to a captive market. It could also mean convincing Israel that it should negotiate on the assumption that 8% is the proper status quo, and not the temporary measure it was originally designed to be. Gnehm
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