Jordan

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Jordan is largely open to foreign investment, and the government is committed to supporting foreign investment. Foreign and local investors are treated equally under the law. The Jordan Investment Commission is the body responsible for implementing the 2014 Investment Law and promoting new and existing investment in Jordan, through a range of measures to incentivize and facilitate investment procedures. The Investment Council, established by the law, which is comprised of the Prime Minister, ministers with economic portfolios, and representatives from the private sector, oversees the management and development of the national investment policy, and is responsible for legislative and economic reforms to facilitate investment.

Investment Law No. 30/2014 identifies the Commission as the key reference point for investors and grants additional authorities to the Investment Window to facilitate and accelerate investment registration. The President of the Commission and the administrative team supervise and centrally approve investment-related matters within the guidelines set by the Investment Council and approved by the government.

The Investment Commission can expedite the provision of government services and provide a number of investment incentives, tax, and customs exemptions. An investment-dedicated “One Window” (https://www.jic.gov.jo/en/  ) provides information and technical assistance to investors, with a mandate to simplify registration and licensing procedures for investment projects that benefit from the Investment Law. In 2018, the Commission launched a “Follow-Up and After Care” section with an aim to remove obstacles facing investors and find appropriate solutions as part of the investment process.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Investment and property laws allow domestic and foreign entities to establish businesses that engage in remunerative activities. Foreign companies may open regional and branch offices, branch offices may carry out full business activities, and regional offices may serve as liaisons between head offices and Jordanian or regional clients. The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply’s Companies Control Department implements the government’s policy on the establishment of regional and branch offices.

Foreign nationals and firms are permitted to own or lease property in Jordan for investment purposes and are allowed one residence for personal use, provided that their home country permits reciprocal property ownership rights for Jordanians. Depending on the size and location of the property, the Land and Survey Department, the Ministry of Finance, and/or the Cabinet may need to approve foreign ownership of land and property, which must then be developed within five years after the date of approval.

In April 2019, the government amended its regulations governing foreign ownership, expanding ownership percentage in some economic activities, while maintaining the following restrictions::

  • Foreigners are prohibited from wholly or partially owning investigation and security services, stone quarrying operations for construction purposes, customs clearance services, and bakeries of all kinds; and are prohibited from trading in weapons and fireworks. The Cabinet, however, may approve foreign ownership of projects in these sectors upon the recommendation of the Investment Council. To qualify for the exemption, projects must be categorized as being highly valuable to the national economy.
  • Investors are limited to 50 percent ownership in certain businesses and services, including retail and wholesale trading, engineering consultancy services, exchange houses apart from banks and financial services companies, maritime, air and land transportation services, and related services.
  • Foreign firms may not import goods without appointing an agent registered in Jordan; the agent may be a branch office or a wholly owned subsidiary of the foreign firm. The agent’s connection to the foreign company must be direct, without a sub-agent or intermediary. The Commercial Agents and Intermediaries Law No. 28/2001 governs contractual agreements between foreign firms and commercial agents. Private foreign entities, whether licensed under sole foreign ownership or as a joint venture, compete on an equal basis with local companies.

However, according to the Bilateral Investment Treaty with Jordan, U.S. investors are granted several exceptions and are accorded the same treatment as Jordanian nationals, allowing U.S. investors to maintain 100 percent ownership in some restricted businesses. The most up-to-date listing of limitations on investments is available in the FTA Annex 3.1 and may be found at http://www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/jordan-fta/final-text.

For national security purposes, foreign investors must undergo security screening through the Ministry of Interior, which can be finalized through the “One Window” located at the Investment Commission.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Jordan has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 2000. The WTO conducted Jordan’s second Trade Policy Review  in November 2015.

In 2012, the United States and Jordan agreed to Statements of Principles for International Investment and for Information and Communication Technology Services, and a Trade and Investment Partnership Bilateral Action Plan, each of which is designed to increase transparency, openness, and governmental and private sector cooperation. The two parties also began discussions on a Customs Administration and Trade Facilitation Agreement. All current treaties and agreements in force between the United States and Jordan may be found here: https://www.state.gov/s/l/treaty/tif/.

In follow up on OECD’s Investment Policy Review of Jordan and Jordan’s adherence to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises in 2013, the MENA-OECD competitiveness program issued a report in 2018 entitled “Enhancing the legal framework for sustainable investment: Lessons from Jordan” (http://www.oecd.org/mena/competitiveness/Enhancing-the-Legal-Framework-for-Sustainable-Investment-Lessons-from-Jorden.pdf ).

Business Facilitation

Businesses in Jordan need to register with the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Supply’s Companies Control Department, or the Chambers of Commerce or Industry depending on the type of business they conduct; open a bank account, obtain a tax identification number, and obtain a VAT number. They also need to obtain a vocational license from the municipality, receive a health inspection, and register with the Social Security Corporation. In November 2017, the government issued a decision to cancel all non-security related pre-approvals for registering a business and require all approvals before starting operations.

The “Investment Window” at the Jordan Investment Commission (www.jic.gov.jo ) serves as a comprehensive investment center for investors. The window provides its services to both local and foreign investors, particularly those in the agricultural sector, medical, tourism, industrial, ICT-Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), and energy sectors. In 2018, the commission introduced a fast track for investors at Queen Alia International Airport.

In 2017, the Commission further streamlined procedures to register and license investment projects in development zones, introducing a Fast Track Investment Window, reducing the number of committee approvals from 23 to 13, and reducing registration procedures from 15 to 5. These changes reduced the typical time period required to register in development zones from five days to one day. Additionally, the time period to grant exemptions under the investment law has been reduced from two weeks to one, and the time period to grant exemptions under the decisions of the Prime Minister from seven days to one.

Jordan has also adopted a single security approval to replace the 11 approvals that were previously required for new investors. The new approval covers registering and licensing the company, obtaining driving licenses for investors, possessing immovable property for the establishment of investment projects in the industrial and developing zones, in addition to granting residence permits to non-Jordanian investors and their family members. The Companies Control Department has developed and launched a portal for online registration: http://www.ccd.gov.jo/ 

The commission has published a number of online guides, including the investor guide (https://www.jic.gov.jo/en/investor-guide/ ).

In November 2019, under the Jordan Investment Commission’s (JIC), the government introduced several new services including the issuance and renewal investor IDs, issuance and renewal of IDs for investors’ family members, registration of institutions in development zones, first-time registration of individual institutions, changing the method of use, registration and renewal of subscriptions to the Amman Chamber of Commerce (ACC), amendments to subscriptions to the ACC, and issuance of environmental permits. The introduction of these electronic services reduced the time period needed to grant or renew an investor card (an ID card for investors used to facilitate various transactions) to one day. (https://www.jic.gov.jo/en/ ).

In accordance with the Investor Grievances Bylaw No. 163 of 2019, the JIC established a unit to follow up on and address investor complaints, with the aim to resolve legal disputes outside of the formal court proceedings and reduce related cost.

In the 2020 World Bank Group’s Doing Business report  Jordan ranked 75 out of 190. This improvement was attributed to reforms regarding the legal rights of borrowers and lenders, the introduction of a unified legal framework for secured transactions, launching a notice-based collateral registry, improvements to the insolvency law, and implementation of an electronic filing and payment for labor taxes and other mandatory contributions. The number of payments that businesses need to file every year was also cut from twenty-three to nine.

Outward Investment

Jordan does not have a mechanism in place to specifically incentivize outward investment.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Legal, regulatory and accounting policies, applicable to both domestic and foreign investors, are transparent and promote competition. However, historically red tape and bureaucratic procedures, particularly at the local government level, presented problems for foreign and domestic investors.

The government is gradually implementing policies to improve competition and foster transparency in implementation. These reforms aim to change an existing system influenced in the past by family affiliations and business ties. The Jordan Investment Commission (JIC), through its Fast Track Investment Window, introduced a number of measures to streamline the investment process. All laws and regulations are usually published on the website of the Legislative and Opinion Bureau for public commenting, in addition to executive branch consultations, with the legislative branch and key stakeholders.

Most economic regulations are available on the Jordan Investment Commission website (https://www.jic.gov.jo/ar/investment-regulations-2/ ), or on the Ministry of Industry and Trade and Supply website (https://www.mit.gov.jo/Default/AR). All regulations are published in the Official Gazette (http://pm.gov.jo/newspaper ) or the Legislative and Opinion Bureau (http://www.lob.jo/ ).

The commission issued and published a services and licensing guides outlining processes and fees, in addition to the incentives guide (https://www.jic.gov.jo/en/services-guide/ ). Guides are currently available in Arabic.

Jordan is committed to its fiscal transparency policy, therefore the Ministry of Finance (MoF) publishes a monthly “General Government Finance Bulletin” and that includes detailed information on government’s debt obligations. (www.mof.gov.jo/Portals/0/Mof_content/النشرات والبيانات المالية/نشرة مالية الحكومة/2016/Arabic PDF December 2016.pdf  ).

International Regulatory Considerations

Jordan recognizes and accepts most U.S. standards and specifications. However, Jordan has occasionally required additional product standards for imports. Some of these measures have been viewed as barriers to trade, such as a 2014 restriction imposed on packaging sizes for poultry available for retail resale.

As a member country of the WTO, Jordan is obliged to notify all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

Jordan is a signatory of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. As of March 2018, Jordan had implemented 81.5 percent of its commitments. Jordan submitted its notifications for Category A before the agreement came into force, and is currently in the final review for categories B and C.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Jordan has a mixed legal system based on civil law, Sharia Law (Islamic Law), and customary law. The Constitution establishes the judiciary as one of three separate and independent branches of government. Jordanian commercial laws do not make a distinction between Jordanian and non-Jordanian investors. However, plaintiffs complain of judicial backlogs and subsequent delays in legal proceedings. Jordan has introduced economic judicial chambers, established under the Amman First Instance Court and Amman Appeal Court under the provisions of the Law of Formation of the amended Courts No. 30 of 2017. These chambers specialize in the adjudication of certain commercial and investment disputes mentioned in Article 4 of the Courts Formation Law.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Jordan’s Investment Law governs local and foreign investment. The law consolidated three entities – the Jordan Investment Board, the Jordanian Development Zones Commission, and the Free Zones Corporation – into the Jordan Investment Commission. The law incorporates a statement of investors’ rights and a legal framework for the newly established Investment Window, which is located at the Investment Commission’s headquarters.

The commission issued and published services and licensing guides outlining processes and fees, in addition to other guides ( https://www.jic.gov.jo/en/publications/ ). The commission also issued a new bylaw that regulates non-Jordanian investments to increase investors’ confidence and attract more foreign investment.

In September 2017, Parliament passed the Monitoring and Inspection of Economic Activities Law No. 33/2017, and amendments to Jordan’s Companies Law No. 34/2017. This law governs the requirements to establish venture capital companies for the purpose of direct investment, or for creating funds, to contribute or invest in high-growth companies that are not listed in the stock market.

In 2018, Jordan passed the Insolvency Law, Movable Assets and Secured Lending Law and Bylaw, the Venture Capital Bylaw, and the Income Tax Law, along with bylaws to ensure proper implementation.

In October 2019, Jordan published an amended Social Security Law stipulating temporary changes to the social security contributions of newly registered entities that meet specific conditions, with an aim to support new companies and startups. The government also issued the Investor Grievance Bylaw and established a special unit to follow up on investors cases. It is also offering 10-year “incentive stability guarantees” to new investors. In January 2020, Jordan passed a new Public Private Partnership (PPP) law, and established a PPP unit to identify and study investment opportunities.

There is no systematic or legal discrimination against foreign participation with respect to ownership and participation in Jordan’s major economic sectors other than the restrictions outlined in the governing regulations. In fact, many Jordanian businesses actively seek engagement with foreign partners as a way to increase their competitiveness and access to other international markets. The government’s efforts have made Jordan’s official investment climate welcoming; however, some U.S. investors have reported hidden costs, citing bureaucratic red tape, vague regulations, and conflicting jurisdictions.

For further details please contact:

Investment Window
Jordan Investment Commission
Telephone: +962 (6) 5608400/9 Ext: 120
P.O.Box 893
Amman 11821 Jordan
E-mail: info@jic.gov.jo

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Jordanian parliament passed amendments to Competition Law No. 33/2004 in 2011 to strengthen the local economic environment and attract foreign investment by providing incentives to improve market competitiveness, protect small and medium enterprises from restrictive anticompetitive practices, and give consumers access to high quality products at competitive prices. The Competition Directorate at the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Supply conducts market research, examines complaints, and reports violators to the judicial system.

The investor grievance unit established in 2019 at the Jordan Investment Commission can also look into unfair competition cases filed by investors.

Expropriation and Compensation

Article 11 of the Jordanian Constitution stipulates that expropriations are prohibited unless specifically deemed to be in the public interest. In cases of expropriation, the law mandates provision of fair compensation to the investor in convertible currency.

Dispute Settlement

ICSD and New York Conventions

Since 1972, Jordan has been a contracting state to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention). Only a small number of cases between foreign investors and the Jordanian government have been brought before ICSID tribunals. Jordan is also a signatory to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York convention).

In January 2018, the Parliament passed amendments to Arbitration Law 2017, which aims to facilitate the use of arbitration as an alternative to dispute settlement procedures.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Under domestic law, foreign investors may seek third party arbitration as a means of settling disputes. Jordan abides by WTO dispute settlement mechanisms, and dispute settlement mechanisms under the U.S.-Jordan FTA are consistent with WTO commitments. Article IX of the United States-Jordan Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) establishes procedures for dispute settlements between Jordanians and U.S. persons.

Investment disputes are treated as any other commercial or civil dispute in the Jordanian judicial system. Investment agreements with the Jordanian government as a party generally contain a dispute resolution clause that would refer cases to arbitration in Jordan. On average, it takes three to four years for cases that go through the local court system to reach a verdict. Cases settled through arbitration take between 12 to 18 months. The main challenge regarding litigating cases is being able to conduct proper process of service upon all concerned parties. Another challenge is the lack of specialized investment and commercial courts, limiting judges’ capacity to adequately review cases.

Rulings by U.S. courts or other international arbitration committees can be upheld through the filing of an Enforcement of Ruling motion in a Jordanian court.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

In March 2018, King Abdullah II approved Arbitration Law No. 16, amending the 2001 law. The amendment introduced changes to the procedural framework of arbitrators seated in Jordan, which can be traced in the UNCITRAL model law. The amended law gives more authority to the Arbitral Tribunal and limits the role of the Court of Appeal.

Rulings by U.S. courts or other international arbitration committees can be upheld through the filing of an Enforcement of Ruling motion in a Jordanian court.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Commercial Code, Civil Code, and Companies Law collectively govern bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings. In December 2017, the cabinet endorsed a bankruptcy bylaw which stipulates procedures for optional and compulsory liquidation, along with the mechanism, liquidation plan, and required documentation and reporting. In 2018, Parliament passed the Insolvency Law, which allows individuals and companies to offset their financial position through a debt management plan. The law helps the insolvent entity to continue its economic activity, rather than directly resorting to bankruptcy, and regulates insolvency proceedings for foreign organizations according to international conventions ratified by Jordan.

Defaulting on loans or issuing checks without adequate available balances is a crime in Jordan and may subject the offender to imprisonment under Jordan’s penal system. While Jordan is reexamining these laws, prison terms for debtors remains a legal practice in Jordan. Investors should conduct thorough due diligence on potential partners and avail themselves of local legal counsel in order to understand best business practices in Jordan and conform with local laws. The U.S. Commercial Service office of the Embassy of the United States in Amman can assist American businesses in these endeavors.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

There is general awareness of responsible business conduct among both manufacturers and consumers in Jordan, with many local and multinational companies voluntarily developing and adopting corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. CSR efforts predominantly focus on improving infrastructure in adjoining communities or providing better access to educational opportunities.

The amended companies’ law regulates the work of companies by applying the rules of company governance and enhancing the monitoring authorities of shareholders at public liability companies.

The American Chamber of Commerce published in 2016 a framework code of conduct for the private sector, the Jordan Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission (JIACC) approved and embedded as part of the governance chapter in the amended companies law. The Customs Department released and revised a Golden List Program, which encourages good corporate citizenship amongst trading companies and international best practice for trade across borders.

The government issues a monthly financial bulletin highlighting all revenues, including taxes and royalties paid by extractive industries.

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