29th January, 2021
Iraq Ambassadorial e-Roundtable
The chamber was pleased to hold an Iraq ambassadorial roundtable on the morning of 29 January which took the form of a webinar.
Participating were His Excellency Mr Mohammad Jaafar Mohammad Bakr Al-Sadr, the Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary for the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in London, who was appointed to his post in October 2019, and H E Dr Suha Dawood, the Chairwoman of the country’s important National Investment Authority (NIC).
The discussion was chaired by Mr Bandar Reda, ABCC Secretary General & CEO, who began by highlighting the growing importance of UK-Iraq collaboration as we work together to beat the pandemic and as business activities gradually start to return to normal.Mr Reda stated that the ABCC stood ready to assist any company seeking to develop new business with Iraq and vice versa.
He emphasised that the role of the chamber was to serve businesses on both sides and expressed pride in the chamber’s ability to deliver its first-class service throughout the current difficult times without interruption.
His Excellency the Ambassador stated that Iraq was looking forward to the next meeting of the Joint British-Iraq Ministerial Council which had been delayed because of the pandemic.
He went on to highlight the importance of greater economic and technical cooperation between the two countries. The ambassador mentioned a wide range of sectors where Britain and Iraq could work successfully together such as oil and gas, IT, transport, services, security and defence, health, education, and others. He warmly thanked the chamber for its support and for organising the discussion.
Dr Suha Dawood outlined the strategy of Iraq to diversify its economy away from too great a dependence on oil and gas which made it vulnerable to the global markets. She mentioned the country’s intention to strengthen its non-oil industrial sectors, especially agriculture and services, which had not received sufficient attention in the past.
She explained that Iraq possessed extremely fertile land that was ripe for development by investors. Facilities were available for the investor who wished to set up factories such as dairy farms on Iraqi land that had been identified as best suited for such activities, Dr Suha said.
Iraq also believed that it was vital to invest in its infrastructure and that positive results of this new strategy were already beginning to be seen with the country achieving self-sufficiency in more products.
The NIC chairwoman indicated that Iraq needed specialist investors across a range of sectors inclusive of healthcare, education, power and agriculture.
Baroness Symons spoke of the new freedom that the UK had to negotiate trade agreements now that it was outside the European Union and unencumbered by EU regulations.
The Baroness felt that this would enable the UK and Iraq to take advantage of the opportunities available for collaboration, mentioning in particular healthcare, education and agriculture as important areas.
The ABCC chairman laid stress upon the need to anticipate risks in future and urged more cooperation between the UK and its Arab partners. The chamber’s activities were guided by its belief in the value of “friendship through trade”, she said.
Baroness Symons looked forward to being able to hold detailed discussions in person once the pandemic had receded.
She commended Dr Suha for addressing the concerns of investors and for clearly explaining that the legal framework in place in Iraq was very capable of protecting investment. This was a crucial means of building confidence among business partners and attracting more foreign investors.
Dr Suha Dawood explained how Iraq was seeking long-term investment and that its priority was for businesses to set up operations in the country and become its long-term partners. Iraq should be viewed as a 40 million strong market and was no longer simply looking to import goods, the NIC chairwoman said.
The development of tourism in Iraq offered significant opportunities because of the country’s rich natural assets and heritage, Dr Suha said, outlining tentative details of some of the tourism projects that Iraqi officials was planning to formally announce soon. These would consist of new infrastructure projects designed to attract both leisure-seeking and religious tourists.
Asked if Iraq possessed a “one-stop shop”, Dr Suha explained that the NIC, working closely with all the country’s ministries, was available to receive enquiries and could assist with permits and licenses. Likewise, the embassy worked with the NIC and could be seen as a first point of contact, embassy officials present reiterated.
H E the Ambassador concluded by inviting potential investors to contact the embassy in London as it was always ready to assist companies looking to do business in its country. He stated that last October’s ministerial visit had awakened interest in Iraq from many British investors.
In summing up, Mr Reda urged UK investors to take a closer look at Iraq to find out more about the huge range of opportunities that were available many of which could not be fully covered in the limited time available during the seminar. The ABCC was in constant communication with the embassy and was always ready to help facilitate UK-Iraqi business contacts.
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