US, Iraq pledge strong post-war trade relations

US, Iraq pledge strong post-war trade relations

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
US, Iraq pledge strong post-war trade relations

A pilot climbs into a US F-16 jet fighter at the al-Asad Air Base west of the capital Baghdad on Nov 1. US soldiers have begun to leave the Iraqi base to head home. AFP photo

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has called on United States companies to help rebuild his war-battered country, which is facing a new challenge as U.S. troops withdraw by the end of the year.
“As much as we committed to defeat terrorism, we are now committed to growth in the private sector,” al-Maliki said yesterday in a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “It is now not the generals but corporations and business leaders who will be at the front of this stage,” he said, Reuters reported.
A joint decision to double the number of fighter jets that the U.S. scheduled to sell the Middle East country proves that trade ties between the parties will boost.

The decision announced by the U.S. authorities came on the heels of al-Maliki’s request that the U.S. might increase the number of F-16s it plans to sell to Iraq to 36 from 18, Anatolia news agency reported.

Iraq needed more fighter jets to protect the country’s independence, al-Maliki said.

“Our government has informed the U.S. Congress that we have decided to sell Iraq 18 more F-16 fighter planes,” said U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor in a statement Dec. 13.
Meanwhile, al-Maliki told the packed crowd of U.S. business officials that Iraq has the opportunity to work with companies from all over the world to rebuild itself after three decades of war. But he believes the U.S. has the “best companies” to help diversify Iraq’s economy away from one heavily dependent on oil, al-Maliki said.

“We are not satisfied with the number of U.S. companies in Iraq,” he said. The Iraqi government would make it “as easy as possible” for U.S. companies to invest, he said.

US has best companies
The withdrawal of almost all U.S. troops from Iraq by Dec. 31 marks a new chapter in the country’s post-war development, which both Iraqi and U.S. officials have sought to cast as the beginning of a more normal relationship that could help create badly need jobs in both countries.

A delegation led by al-Maliki included top Iraqi trade, investment and transportation officials and 35 business leaders from energy, construction, healthcare and other sectors eager to make deals with U.S. companies.

The U.S. Commerce Department hosted a “matchmaking session” yesterday to allow interested U.S. and Iraqi companies to meet one-on-one.

U.S. President Barack Obama, at a press conference with al-Maliki on Dec. 12, said the U.S. had an “enduring” commitment to Iraq’s success after “an enormous investment of blood and treasure” and also touted the opportunities for U.S. businesses in the country of 30 million people.

“In the coming years, it’s estimated that Iraq’s economy will grow even faster than China’s or India’s. With oil production rising, Iraq is on track to once again be one of the region’s leading oil producers,” Obama said.

U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson picked up on those themes in his remarks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Iraq’s plan to spend $186 billion over the next five years on more than 2,700 development projects is a promising opportunity for U.S. companies, also helping to put people back to work in the U.S., Bryson said.