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Jordan’s Textile & Apparel Imports Grow 12.4%; Small but Rapidly Expanding Industry

Jordan’s importation of textiles and apparel keeps robustly improving, expanding 12.43% to $202 million in the first two months of 2014.

According to the Jordanian Department of Statistics, Jordan’s apparel and textile imports for February 2014 were valued at $94 million. In 2013, the country’s imports jumped 18.12% to $1.26 billion, compared to $1.07 billion the year before.

Japan is one of Jordan’s key destinations for its textile and garment exports–in 2013, exports to Japan increased 9.87% to $1.22 billion, compared to $1.11 billion in 2012.

While Jordan’s textile and apparel industry is small by global standards, it still counts as one of the country’s most important business sectors, accounting for thirty percent of all exports and employing approximately 40,000 workers, according to the Jordanian Society for the Export of Clothes and Textiles. The World Bank reports that Jordan has a population of about 6.5 million and a labor force of 1.8 million.

Jordan’s textile and apparel industry has been buoyed by a series of free trade agreements with United States, European Union, European Free Trade Association, the Greater Arab Free Trade Area, Morocco, Turkey, Singapore and Canada. Jordan’s access to the U.S. market has been significantly expanded as a result of two free trade agreements in particular: the Jordan-United States FTA and the Qualified Industrial Zone (QIZ) agreement.

The QIZ agreement went into effect in 1996 and permits Jordanian products made in specially designated areas and containing Israeli inputs to enter the United States duty-free and quota-free. Together, the two agreements have contributed to an increase in Jordan’s apparel and textile exports to the United States from approximately $50 million per year in 1999 to $1 billion in 2010, according to a MENA Knowledge and Learning report published by the World Bank in February 2012. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Jordan is the U.S.’s sixty-eighth largest good trading partner with $3.3 billion in total goods during 2013. Jordan’s exports in 2013 to the U.S. totaled $1.2 billion and imports reached $2.1 billion.

The Jordanian textile and apparel industry manufactures for numerous Western retailers and brands including the Gap, J.C. Penney, Levi Strauss & Co., Liz Claiborne, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Walmart, Kmart, Limited, Sears, Columbia, New York Laundry and Victoria’s Secret.

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Like Indonesia and Pakistan, Jordan’s textile and apparel industry has suffered from chronic energy shortages. A rapidly depleting supply of natural gas, in conjunction with elevated oil prices, has forced Jordan to import more fuel for the sake of electricity generation, a burden on the country’s economic growth.

Jordan, like Cambodia and Bangladesh, has also been roiled by labor strikes demanding higher wages, better working conditions and improved access to health insurance. Starting in 2008, Jordan partnered with the International Labour Organization and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation to form Better Work Jordan, an initiative that targets superior compliance for labor standards in the apparel industry.