Iraqi Prime Minister: Business Now at the Front

Dec 13, 2011

The Hill headlines fits perfectly: "Iraq is Open for Business."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the Chamber today to mark the transition from U.S. military engagement to economic engagement through commerce, trade, and investment. He told an audience of business and government leaders,

We are at the threshold of a new phase in the relationship in between the new [countries], based on mutual interests and mutual desire. It is now not the generals, but it is the corporations and businessmen who will be in the front of this stage.

He wants deeper economic ties with the U.S. saying, "There are a lot of American corporations in Iraq. However, we are not satisfied with the number of American corporations in Iraq."

In his introduction of the Prime Minister, David Chavern, chief operating officer of the Chamber, noted the value of developing a stronger U.S.-Iraq economic bond:

The American business community - many with us here today - can be a powerful ally in Iraq’s quest to create jobs, build infrastructure, increase the standard of living for Iraqis, and guarantee a prosperous future for Iraq. As U.S. engagement in Iraq transitions, the private sector will play an increasingly important role to help shape virtually every sector, from electricity and housing to transportation, telecommunications, and health care. These commercial opportunities translate into jobs in both Iraq and the United States, benefiting both countries.

Along with the economic opportunities there is the role American businesses and organizations like the United States Business Council in Iraq can play in building Iraq's civil society. Lionel Johnson, the Chamber's vice president for Middle East and North Africa Affairs, wrote in Politico today, about the progress already happening:

Growth has come with Iraq’s dramatic shift from a traditional, bureaucratic, centrally planned economy, to one more broadly participatory, in which the private sector can better provide the energy, capital and constancy for long-term growth and development.

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