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General Counsel Kerry Leads Administration Efforts to Support Long-Term Economic Growth in Iraq

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General Counsel Kerry standing a podium

Guest blog post by Cameron F. Kerry, Department of Commerce General Counsel

On June 28, 2004, Iraq's first democratically elected government assumed full sovereign authority. Eight years later, I joined Iraqi counterparts to discuss Iraq's next great challenge: integrating itself into the world economy. Overcoming this challenge is a critical step in Iraq's transition since, as President Obama has noted, “Iraq is assuming its rightful place among the community of nations.”

The Department of Commerce mission in Iraq is to help the country assume this role while working to expand and facilitate increased U.S. business opportunities. As part of this mission, I had the honor of co-hosting two conferences focused on Iraq’s economic growth strategy. Iraq faces the challenge of generating trade and investment at the same time as managing the expansion of its resource wealth to ensure economic diversification. While these challenges are significant, I was encouraged by the universal agreement between panelists, government officials, and private sector representatives that these challenges can be overcome by the adoption of a commercial law framework that emphasizes predictability, transparency, and economic security.

The first of these conferences, co-hosted by Iraq’s Minister of Finance Rafi al-Issawi, brought together experts from U.S., multilateral, and private institutions to discuss with Iraqi counterparts how under-developed commercial law and financial mechanisms can act as barriers to trade and investment. A common theme in the two days of discussion was how the rule of law is vital to a welcoming economic environment in Iraq in which U.S. and Iraqi businesses can predict and plan their investments, purchases, and sales with greater certainty.

The second conference was the US-Iraq Business Dialogue co-hosted by Iraq’s Minister of Trade Khayrallah Hasan Babakir, brought U.S firms doing business in Iraq together with private sector representatives from Iraq to share concerns on private sector development in Iraq and recommend policies to improve commercial relations between our two countries. The U.S. and Iraqi private sector representatives advised that the two governments work together on key challenges to doing business, such as issuing visas, business registration, and trade financing. Both sides view Iraq as a valuable business partner in the region, and we hope to continue this dialogue well into the future.

The United States welcomes and celebrates Iraq’s efforts to foster economic growth. We will continue to support these efforts under the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement. Under this agreement, the US and Iraq are collaborating to integrate Iraq into the global economy and expand its private sector.  The focus on commercial rule of law and access to financing is a direct response to concerns raised by US companies doing business in Iraq. Overcoming these barriers will widen the door for US companies to pursue economic opportunities in Iraq, driving exports and American job growth.

I am particularly proud of the work of the Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP), which is working across Iraq’s ministries, judiciary, and legislature to strengthen the business environment, foster innovation, and expand trade.  I am also grateful for the American companies and experts that brought their business and finance skill to the discussions.

In my experience as General Counsel, I often see close up how pursuit of commercial rule of law can lay the foundation for economic prosperity. I have enjoyed the opportunity to share this experience with my Iraqi colleagues over the last few days and to contribute in some way to Iraq's rebuilding.

This collaboration will continue through the efforts of CLDP and the Commerce Department Iraq Task Force to foster greater economic ties between the U.S. and Iraq. My sincere hope is that, through this collaboration, we can enhance the Iraqi government’s efforts to promote commercial rule of law and, in partnership with U.S. businesses, generate economic opportunity in both countries for generations to come.

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