Eitan Yudilevich, Ph.D.
September 10, 2007
"The Marker" (Original Published in Hebrew)
Israel and Jordan are neighbors and co-signers of a peace agreement universally accepted as secure. Despite this, business relations between Israel and Jordan have been characterized by ups and downs, which have been strongly affected by the political/security situation. According to the Jordanian Department of Statistics, between 1996 and 2000 trade between Israel and Jordan grew from some ten million dollars to over $160 million. This growth leveled out significantly after that period, and the last years have seen a slowdown - or even a drop - in trade: in 2004 trade came to approximately $280 million, and in 2006, $270 million.
No one can deny the immense importance of business relations, and therefore this trade stagnation should worry people and make them re-think ways to reinvigorate business relations and to cultivate them for the future. The key to this is increasing cooperation in research and development, especially sustainable development, which includes fields such as energy, water and the environment.
Like Israel, Jordan receives little significant income from natural resources, and therefore must nurture its nation's human capital and its knowledge assets. The Jordanian government has recognized the potential in promoting scientific and technological subjects. Science and Technology (S&T) activities are coordinated by the Higher Council for Science and Technology, founded in 1987, one of its main roles being to encourage interaction between research and production elements. The Council also deals with encouraging innovation, commercializing technologies and fostering international collaborations. A recently published report on scientific and technological activities in Jordan describes various collaborations with the U.S., the E.U., Germany, Egypt and many other countries.
Sustainable development is a unifying factor for Israel and Jordan, and may even be used to leverage increased trade with Jordan, which today takes up only 1.6% of our neighbors' foreign trade.
Common interests arising from the increasing attention paid to energy and environmental concerns, have awarded us an opportunity to invigorate business relations between Israel and Jordan. These are knowledge-intensive subjects, and as such, match the Jordanian master strategy of advancing science and technology. For instance, both countries have a great deal of motivation to promote energy efficiency. As suggested by the Ministry of Infrastructure, Israel is capable of reducing consumption by 20%; similar estimates have been made in Jordan.
Collaboration must take place on several levels, from collaboration between graduate students to that between corporations. This innovative cross-feeding can take place in such fields as high voltage electricity, energy systems management software, energy efficient construction and more. Water technology too has room for R&D collaboration between Jordan and Israel, in such fields as leak detection/control, desalination, environmentallyfriendly disinfectants and more. Research and development collaboration could be achieved by using the U.S.-Israel Bilateral Foundations, such as the TRIDE Fund for Israel-Jordan-U.S. industrial collaboration working alongside the BIRD Foundation. This will require stable annual funding of several million dollars per year, and will lead to significant activity, tightening academic and business relations. The economic results will be reflected in trade numbers a few years down the line. Dr.
The writer is Executive Director of the BIRD Foundation and the TRIDE Fund for collaboration between Israel, Jordan and the U.S.