US businesses encouraged to increase investment in Iraq

Special US businesses encouraged to increase investment in Iraq
Al-Shuaiba oil refinery, Basra, Iraq, April 20, 2017. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 June 2023

US businesses encouraged to increase investment in Iraq

US businesses encouraged to increase investment in Iraq
  • State Department official spoke to journalists, including Arab News, following Iraq visit
  • Dilawar Syed: ‘What we’re witnessing is a country on the path to progress’

LONDON: American businesses are being encouraged to increase investment in Iraq as the country looks to move on from decades of devastation.

Speaking to journalists, including Arab News, on Tuesday following a trip to Iraq, the special representative for commercial and business affairs at the US State Department said he is “very excited” at the opportunities to be part of the rebuilding of the country.

“We arrived in Baghdad following the passage of Iraq’s highest ever national budget, with $150 billion set aside for infrastructure and other outlays,” Dilawar Syed added.

“This is a big deal and a milestone for the country, and you can sense with this — alongside the humming metropolis that Baghdad is — that what we’re witnessing is a city and country on the path to progress, but perhaps more than this, what I can sense is peace.

“Iraq has suffered so much in the past decade, and coming here with the support of the US Chamber of Commerce, I really feel the US private sector can be a force for good.”

Syed’s trip was part of what he described as a “deliberate effort” to build engagement and a strategic framework between the two countries based on business and commercial interests, with some 47 US-headquartered companies joining him as part of the delegation.

Among the represented industries were construction, education, energy, finance, health and technology, with Syed effusive on the opportunities presented through education and tech.  

“Education is an area we feel very strongly about because we believe that Iraq has a bright future, particularly when it comes to prospective technology talent, and this is something we want to support and be part of,” he said.  

“We really believe the environment in Iraq is conducive for US companies and entrepreneurs looking to invest here, and that’s why we sent this delegation; we’re very bullish about it.”

Syed acknowledged that there remained hurdles to attracting outside investment, not least convincing US interests when it came to safety, but he said he felt the delegation’s presence went some way to providing assurances.

“For us to go back into the country and spend several days there hopefully builds confidence that it’s safe and conducive to further business developments,” he added.

Syed also acknowledged that there remained further work to do on normalizing standards when it came to issues of arbitration and intellectual property, while discussions remained ongoing with the Central Bank of Iraq over mechanisms to repatriate US businesses’ profits.

“Yes, this all helps US companies be more productive in the country. However, it also helps Iraq be more productive and tackle many of its challenges,” he said.

“Every time US companies take hold in a new location they raise standards, and this was something we spoke at length about with the Iraqi delegation to make sure there are proper frameworks,” he added.

“Iraq has put significant resources for the country’s future, and our companies have opportunities to compete for these projects,” he said.

“We must remember to fight corruption. Whatever initiative Iraq puts out, we hope to compete on in an open, standards-based way.

“We compete with the world, with our friends; we believe our sector offers the best. Ultimately, we’ll be judged on deals closed.”

The US delegation left having pocketed an early win, with Syed noting that a deal had been reached with Iraq’s Health Ministry on cancer research and developing better cancer care.