US embassy cable - 02AMMAN3648

SURF'S UP: THE EBB AND FLOW OF THE JORDANIAN BOYCOTT

Identifier: 02AMMAN3648
Wikileaks: View 02AMMAN3648 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Amman
Created: 2002-07-03 14:00:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: ECON ETRD EINV 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.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 AMMAN 003648 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
ECON DAO RAO FCS PA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ECON, ETRD, EINV, JO 
SUBJECT:  SURF'S UP: THE EBB AND FLOW OF THE JORDANIAN 
BOYCOTT 
 
REF: A) AMMAN 3394 B) AMMAN 2093 
 
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED; NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION 
 
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SUMMARY 
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1.  (SBU) While anecdotal evidence suggests that a nationwide 
boycott of American products has waned for the time being, 
support at the street level remains strong.  Despite GOJ 
efforts in various fora to discourage the action, boycotters 
seem to be determined to make a statement by rejecting what 
they see as symbols of American culture, regardless of 
possibly detrimental effects on the local economy.  Increased 
support for the boycott on a moral/personal level rather than 
a symbolic/political level can only reinforce what may become 
an established aversion to things American.  End summary. 
 
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THE NUMBERS 
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2.  (SBU) Since calls for a boycott reached a peak this 
spring (REF B), enthusiasm for it has ebbed and flowed as 
intensity of anger towards the U.S., driven by events in the 
West Bank/Gaza, has risen or fallen.  McDonald's reports that 
current sales are down 25%, compared to 60% in late April. 
Burger King and Pizza Hut report similar numbers.  (Note: In 
an informal visual survey, we noted that the McDonald's and 
Burger King franchises across the street from the University 
of Jordan, site of some of the most vehement anti-U.S. 
demonstrations, appeared to be quite busy.  Similarly, Pizza 
Hut and McDonald's restaurants in an upscale Amman 
neighborhood, which were nearly empty in late spring, were 
much busier last week.  End note.)  Coca Cola and Pepsi 
report that soft drink sales are down about 40 percent from 
last year, although local stores say there has been a slight 
upturn recently.  An influx of low-priced Syrian soft drink 
products (REF A), in an effort to take advantage of the 
boycott, has served as a politically-expedient substitute and 
has prolonged the slump. 
 
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ANTI-BOYCOTT EFFORTS 
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3.  (SBU) The GOJ has intervened at a number of levels to 
discourage the boycott.  PM Abul Ragheb has prodded local 
opinion leaders and NGOs to deter calls for a boycott, and 
government officials have interceded with mosques to drop 
anti-U.S., pro-boycott preaching.  Minister of the Interior 
Majali stated publicly that the boycott would "damage 
Jordan's interests and relationships with friendly countries" 
and would  "jeopardize vital financial assistance".  A 
Ministry of Industry and Trade official told Emboffs that 
Minister Bashir has spoken out against the campaign.  Last 
week, the GOJ banned a planned rally by professional 
associations to promote a national boycott. Finally, Coca 
Cola GM Azem Yousef told us that at a ceremony celebrating 
the donation of computers by Coke to a Jordanian school, 
Minister of Education Touqan told teachers to stop 
"glorifying" the boycott, and that ending such talk has 
become a Ministry directive. 
 
4.  (SBU) The local AmCham, meanwhile, is constructing a 
proactive strategy to reduce the allure of boycott calls over 
the long term.  In addition to placing reactive op-eds 
opposing the boycott, the AmCham is working with local 
journalists to educate them on the economic and job costs of 
the boycott to Jordan.  More significantly, they are working 
with local media and U.S. company reps on a broad press 
strategy to highlight what American companies (as represented 
by Jordanian licensees) are doing to help local communities. 
This includes the Computers in the Classroom project by Coca 
Cola, Microsoft's assistance to Jordanian universities, and 
CitiBank's programs to educate underprivileged Jordanian 
girls and provide microfinancing to rural women.  The AmCham 
hopes that by highlighting good corporate citizenship over 
the long run, they will create a constituency that actually 
supports U.S. businesses in Jordan. 
 
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SURVEY SAYS . . . 
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5.  (SBU) A survey recently conducted by Coca Cola Jordan 
shows both positive and negative trends in Jordanian 
attitudes towards the boycott. The survey canvassed 1200 
adults throughout the Kingdom to gauge awareness of and 
attitudes toward the boycott. 
6.  (SBU) On the positive side, while 45 percent of the 
respondents are serious about the boycott, only 17 percent 
are committed to maintaining it indefinitely.  What's more, 
63 percent think Jordanian consumers are still buying 
American products.  The survey indicates the products singled 
out are mainly fast foods, cigarettes, and soft drinks; 
American computer software, for example, rarely makes the 
list.  Word of mouth on "the street", rather than any 
organized party-driven or Internet-led campaign, accounted 
for the source of most boycotters' information. 
 
7.  (SBU) Despite these positive indicators, the survey 
exposed more disturbing trends over the long term.  For 
example, it said that 63 percent of those surveyed said the 
boycott should include Jordanian companies that carried 
American brands.  More worrying, respondents were split down 
the middle about whether Jordanian companies should be 
targeted even if it hurts the Jordanian workforce, suggesting 
that efforts to link the boycott to a negative impact on the 
local economy may not be successful.  Regarding soft drinks 
specifically, 52 percent said that they were not buying 
American brands because of perceived company support for 
Israel.  While this group could not specify the form such 
support might take, it is significant that the companies 
themselves were perceived as policy players, however 
indirectly. 
 
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COMMENT 
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8.  (SBU) The views expressed by respondents in the Coke 
survey suggests that warnings that the boycott harms 
Jordanian interests may well be immaterial and that the urge 
to make a moral statement, however economically 
insignificant, takes precedence.  These  trends point to a 
wider phenomenon in which Jordanians across the economic 
spectrum feel themselves more politically empowered on a 
personal level by avoiding American products.  Such trends 
could in turn have significant consequences to our long-term 
efforts to promote both economic openness and political 
moderation in Jordan. 
Gnehm 

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