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Blog Category: Iraq

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

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.

Obama Administration Official Promotes U.S. Commercial Interests in Iraq

Under Secretary Sánchez (left) and U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey (right) with interpreterUnder Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez today emphasized President Obama’s commitment to promoting strong bilateral, economic, cultural, and educational ties with Iraq during his meeting with Iraq’s Minister of Trade Dr. Safa Al-Din Muhammad Al-Safi. Sánchez and Al-Safi discussed key policy changes that could improve the commercial climate and promote U.S. commercial interests in Iraq. Sánchez was joined in Iraq by representatives from 14 U.S. companies that traveled to Baghdad for the first U.S. trade mission to Iraq since the end of combat operations.

“The American and Iraqi private sectors are rich and diverse, brimming with knowledge and a strong work ethic,” Sánchez said. “The U.S. companies on this delegation will interact with the Iraqi public and private sectors, and walk away from this historic trade mission knowing what opportunities exist for them in Iraq.”

Iraq’s GDP has more than doubled since 2006, soaring from $57 billion to $112 billion in 2009. Iraq’s government has budgeted more than $80 billion for infrastructure development, focusing on a number of large projects relating to construction, highways, railways, telecommunications, and security and defense. This trade mission provides U.S. participants with first-hand market information and forms the basis for future economic cooperation.  Release  |  White House blog on trade mission  |  More on the Iraqi trade mission

Secretary Locke Delivers Keynote Address at U.S.-Iraq Business and Investment Conference

Secretary Locke on the podium. Click for larger image.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke delivered keynote remarks at the U.S.-Iraq Business and Investment Conference, encouraging economic partnerships with Iraq and highlighting American business opportunities in multiple sectors. The conference is the first major event under the recently signed U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement and is intended to promote current investment and business opportunities for American companies in Iraq, provide matchmaking opportunities for U.S. and Iraqi firms, and address the challenges to doing business in Iraq. (Remarks)