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June 19, 2007

AMMAN -- A Chinese firm Tuesday signed an agreement with a Jordanian company to set up the first private car assembly and manufacturing plant in Jordan, with a starting capital of $30 million.

Under the deal, China's Hebei Zhongxing Automobile and Jordan's Ayass Motors will begin operating in 2008, with initial production capacity of 4,000 to 6,250 vehicles, Ayass chief Mazin Ayass said at a signing ceremony in Amman.

Annual production of four- and two-wheel-drive vehicles as well as pickups will rise to 12,000 and then to 24,000, targeting Arab and East European markets, Ayass added. The joint venture hopes to manufacture sedans and salons at a later stage.

"Around 25 percent of car parts will be manufactured in Jordan, which will positively reflect on local industries," he said.

The plant, to be set up in Um Rasas, south of Amman, will increase its capital to $50 million by the end of the project's fifth year, and later raise it to $230 million, Ayass said.

Maan Nsur of Jordan's state-run Investment Promotion Corporation expects the venture to create more than 17,000 jobs.

Zhongxing Automobile general manager Robert Chi Yu described the project as "a milestone for cooperation" between the two sides.

According to the Zhongxing Web site, the Chinese company is a "pioneer in pickup truck exports as well as manufacturing" and aims to become "the first Chinese automaker to sell automobiles in the United States" later this year.

The deal was sealed on the sidelines of a two-day conference in Jordan to mull ways of bolstering trade between Chinese businessmen and their Jordanian counterparts.
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