As troops leave, Iraq wants surge of American business
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for greater U.S. investment in Iraq Tuesday.
December 13th, 2011
09:08 PM ET

As troops leave, Iraq wants surge of American business

By National Security Producer Jamie Crawford

As the United States completes its withdrawal of all military forces from Iraq by the end of the month, Iraq's prime minister made a pitch to leaders of American commerce and industry Tuesday - Iraq is open for business.

In an address to American executives at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said his country offers "limitless" opportunities for American companies.

Al-Maliki said his country is trying to diversify from an energy-dominated economy, to one that focuses on financial, medical, agricultural, educational and infrastructure services as well.

The end of U.S. military operations in Iraq heralds the beginning of a "wider relationship" between the two countries where "not generals but businessmen" will focus on economic and political engagement between the two countries, al-Maliki told the audience. He spoke to over 400 executives representing a wide range of industries including petroleum, engineering and construction, commercial aviation, architecture, maritime cargo and financial services.

As U.S. investment in Iraq has increased since 2008, al-Maliki said Iraq wants to see a much greater presence of U.S. companies in his country to help spur greater spending and investment on the country's infrastructure as a way to better the lives of Iraqis, and create more U.S. jobs in the process.

Total foreign direct investment in Iraq hit $70 billion for the first months of 2011 according to the Chamber. The United States has increased its investment from nearly nearly $2 billion in 2010, to more than $8 billion this year, the organization said. That figure represents 11.6% of all investment entering Iraq the Chamber said.

The International Monetary Fund has projected the Iraqi economy to grow at a faster pace than China or India over the next two to three years.

Despite growing U.S. investment in Iraq, the Chamber continued it own pitch to U.S. businesses of the potential Iraq represents for them, and American workers, before al-Maliki spoke.

"We continue to trail our trading partners with respect to investment and economic engagement in Iraq," said Lionel Johnson, vice president for Middle East and North African Affairs at the Chamber. The private sector stands to play a crucial role in filling the capacity void left in many sectors of the Iraqi economy following the U.S. military departure, Johnson said.

Winning business for American firms in Iraq has not been an easy prospect in the past. Not a single U.S. energy firm secured a deal for oil production at an auction of contracts by the Iraqi government two years ago. Many members of Congress were outraged, and questioned the U.S. investment in Iraq to that point after lucrative multi-billion-dollar contracts went to Russian and Chinese firms instead.

In the past year, the United States Business Council in Iraq was established to advance commercial interests for American firms operating in Iraq.

Opportunity aside, al-Maliki acknowledged the difficulty of moving his country from the planned economy of the Saddam Hussein era, to a market-based system governed by transparency laws and international regulations, not to mention convincing American businesses to invest in a country that still experiences a high volume of violence. He assured his audience that his government was doing all it could to root out corruption, and make the country safe for businesses to operate.

"Make no mistake, this is a country that's developing, its commerce is developing, it's going to take time, it's going to take energy," Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides told CNN after al-Maliki spoke. "U.S. companies are going there because they believe they can make money and, at the end of the day that's what it is about, and most of these companies have dealt with complicated environments. Iraq is no different, but we have seen huge progress."

Nides said the "robust diplomatic staff" still based in Iraq after the military withdrawal will include large economic and legal teams to work with U.S. companies operating in Iraq.

Nearly 40 leaders from the Iraqi private sector made the trip to Washington with al-Maliki to meet with their American counterparts.

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Filed under: economy • Iraq • Military • State Department
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. australainfranchises

    Well this is a great information for the people who are looking for developing their franchises business.Thanks for sharing and keep on updating the good work

    March 15, 2012 at 10:07 am | Reply
  2. nelkhoury

    We the U.S. have paid in billions to fund the war and the Iraqi government are issuing contracts to the Russians and the Chinese. We really need to get new blood in D.C. People are taking us for a ride here.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Reply

    It is no coincidence that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was in the United States to meet with President Obama. As US troops are returning home, the Prime Minister took the opportunity to entice the US Chamber of Commerce to invest in Iraq. As a veteran, I have seen the poverty and destruction in Iraq. It is satisfying to now see that not only have we turned Iraq back to its people but that there are several other countries such as China, South Korea, Turkey, and Germany that are willing to take the risk to invest in Iraq and rebuild a country that is still developing and has suffered gravely from the previous regime. As security and political support continues to improve it is no surprise that the Iraqis want American companies to help build roads, rebuild schools and hospitals, provide equipment and establish essential services. Apparently the US military has done such a good job that now they are seeking our top business companies and investors to continue what the US military started nine years ago. The partnership with the US and other countries will serve to bolster the economical growth of what was once a nation state that was economically controlled. Iraq is a prime example of a nation state that is able to succeed and persevere as a sovereign country after nine years of a continuous unstable government. It is within my hopes that within the next ten years the Iraqi people continue to partner with other nations to increase the countries economical growth.

    December 14, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Reply
  4. Hahahahahahahahaha

    How about a Pork Rib Franchise? Hahahahahahahaha.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Reply
    • Markos

      So stale! It sounds you are disturbed, on substance abuse & you likely are to commit suicide.

      December 15, 2011 at 4:25 am | Reply
    • Paolo

      Love it. Make sure they have a side o chitlins! lol

      December 15, 2011 at 6:56 am | Reply
  5. delos

    Don't fool you self, American will flock in droves, to exploit this cheap labor, no enviormental law's, no child labor law,s
    The Pig of wall street will be on this like flies on s@@t.
    And it wont create 1 real wage paying job in the US that's a garantee, just watch

    December 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Reply
    • Paolo

      Be quiet terroristo

      December 15, 2011 at 6:56 am | Reply
  6. anthony

    Sure....we will put a pink taco fast food joint right in the heart of town 🙂

    December 14, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  7. Chris

    Good luck with that funding. After 8 years of Republican ineptitude and mismanagement we still can't get America's big businesses to invest in America. What makes any one think they'll help any one but themselves.

    December 13, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Reply

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