US Chamber of Commerce Hosts Reception for Foreign Minister Zebari

The US Chamber of Commerce hosted Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari at a reception on October 30, 2013, to discuss trade and investment opportunities for American businesses in Iraq. The event was organized in collaboration with the US Business Council in Iraq.

Foreign Minister Zebari delivered a keynote speech outlining the key priorities of the Iraqi delegation’s visit to Washington, led by Prime Minister Maliki. He called on American businesses to engage in what he described as “a mutually beneficial economic partnership,” adding that Iraq was seeking US expertise in a variety of fields including healthcare, oil and gas, and power generation.

Addressing the country’s five-year National Development Plan, Foreign Minister Zebari said that the government would focus on repairing and restoring public services, developing Iraq’s industrial base, boosting oil and gas production, and promoting environmental responsibility.

Ambassador Faily joined the Foreign Minister at the reception.

To watch Foreign Minister Zebari's remarks at the US Chamber of Commerce, click here.

The entire text of Foreign Minister Zebari's speech is below.

His Excellency Hoshyar Zebari
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Iraq
US Chamber of Commerce
October 30, 2013

Thank you Mr. Chosky and also to Brett for the kind introductions. And thank you all for coming here tonight. I really feel among my family because I have known many of you - generals, diplomats, and businesspeople - have all worked very hard for the rights of the people of Iraq. So I am deeply grateful on behalf of the people of Iraq and the government and leaders for all the sacrifices and hard work you have carried out to promote development, stability and peace.

The Chamber of Commerce and the US Business Council in Iraq are doing great work building economic ties between our two countries. I want to thank you all for everything you do, and to express my further appreciation to the Chamber for hosting this event.

As I look around this room, with leaders of world-class companies from every industry, I am reminded of the importance of my two points tonight: Iraq needs American know-how, American investment, and American products and services in order to rebuild our country. And American companies can profit from helping Iraq.

I am here in connection with Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki’s visit this week to the United States. It is no secret that, when he meets with President Obama on Friday, Prime Minister al-Maliki will propose a deeper security relationship between the United States and Iraq.

Together, we can combat our common enemy – international terrorism. Together, we can pursue our common goal – peace and security in the Middle East and throughout the world. Together, we can promote our common values – democracy and human rights.

These values led Americans and Iraqis to sacrifice so much to liberate Iraq from tyranny. Tonight, I want to thank the American people – your families and friends, your neighbors and employees – for everything that you have done.

Iraq is better off; the Middle East is better off; and the world community is better off because Americans and Iraqis deposed the dictator and began building a free-market democracy on the ruins of a regime that terrorized our people, threatened and invaded our neighbors, and wrecked our economy.

Prime Minister al-Maliki is visiting the United States to discuss how our countries can build what President Obama has described as “a normal relationship based on mutual interests and respect.”

Tonight, I’m going to talk about how we can build a mutually beneficial economic partnership to rebuild the infrastructure, revive the economy, and restore the social fabric of Iraq. We need your help. By investing in Iraq, you will reap a rich harvest of returns in new contracts from our government, new markets among our consumers, and new profit centers for your companies.

But, first, as Foreign Minister, I want to report on our progress on the diplomatic front. Iraq strives for good relations with all countries, especially neighboring countries, based on non-interference, mutual respect, shared interests and common threats. Among these shared interests is economic growth – which is one reason why our diplomatic progress is good news for American investors.

In that spirit, Iraq is making great strides with our regional relations.

In recognition of the improved relations between our country and Kuwait, the United Nations Security Council has lifted the crippling sanctions against Iraq. The recent official visit to Baghdad by the Prime Minister of Kuwait was a significant development in resolving the remaining issues and strengthening the relationship between our countries.

For American companies doing business in Iraq, Jordan is often the launching pad. We will never forget that King Abdullah II was the first head of state to visit Iraq after 2003, and we are working together to deepen the diplomatic and economic ties between our countries.

Turkey is Iraq’s biggest trading partner. In 2008, Prime Minister Erdogan was the first Turkish leader in two decades to visit Iraq. While we have had differences about some regional issues, we are working together to strengthen our relationship.

Our diplomatic progress throughout our region is reflected in our having hosted the Arab League Summit in Baghdad in March, 2012. Our neighbors see us as the partner that we are, not the pariah that Saddam Hussein once was.

Now, let me turn to the economic front. We are growing. We are diversifying. We are rebuilding. And we are offering opportunities to American investors and exporters.

We have the world’s fastest growing economy, expanding by 9.6 percent in 2011 and 10.5 percent in 2012.According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, we will grow by 8.2 percent this year, beating China for the third straight year.

On the energy front, our oil production has increased by 50 percent since 2005. We expect to increase oil production capacity by 4.5 million barrels per day by the end of 2014, and 9 million barrels per day by 2020. As the International Energy Agency has reported, Iraq is poised to double our output of oil by the decade of 2030, emerging as the second largest energy exporter in the entire world. This translates into $5 Trillion in revenues for the Iraqi government to spend on infrastructure and other needs.

Yes, we do have challenges. But, for American businesses, our challenges are your opportunities.

After decades of war, sanctions, and economic decline, we need to rebuild our infrastructure. Our roads, bridges, highways, railroads and airports are in disrepair. With 90 percent of our livelihood dependent on energy, we need to diversify our economy while we rebuild our infrastructure.

Iraq is investing our oil revenues in education and crucial development projects, from rebuilding our transportation system to restoring our electrical power.

Americans can provide what our nation needs, through investment and trade, not charity and aid. Iraq offers American companies tremendous investment and export opportunities for developing and servicing schools, bridges, highways and hospitals, water treatment, telecommunications –and much more.

Americans make some of the world’s best healthcare equipment, oil and gas equipment, electrical generating equipment, as well as designing and building many of the best transportation systems.

Iraqis need the best. We deserve the best. And we are prepared to buy the best.

This isn’t an idle promise. This is a specific plan.

Through our National Development Plan, adopted by our Ministry of Planning in 2013, Iraq will invest $357 billion on infrastructure projects all across our country.

Our focus will be four-fold:

First, repairing and restoring basic public services and community facilities;

Second, developing Iraq’s industrial base;

Third, further boosting our oil and gas production; and

Fourth, promoting social reform and environmental responsibility.

Sector-by-sector, our plan will meet our people’s needs – and will offer opportunities for investors at home and abroad.

Here are only a few examples of what we are doing, and how you can be an important part of it:

On the housing front, we have set the ambitious goal of building one million new housing units over the next five years.

With oil and gas, we intend to increase crude oil production capacity from 3.2 million barrels per day as of today to 6.5 million barrels per day in 2017; to increase exports of crude oil from 2.6 million barrels per day in 2012 to 9 million barrels per day in 2020; and to increase production of liquefied natural gas from 880 metric tons as of 2012 to 2,600 metric tons in 2017.

Because Iraq is a leading exporter – and a bridge between Asia and Europe –we will develop the Al Faw grand port in southern Basra. We will increase its container port capacity to 3 million tons per year by 2018 and 7 million tons per year by 2038.

We intend to meet the growing demands in power by increasing production throughout the Iraqi power grid to 25,000 megawatts per year by 2017. This would increase power consumption for each Iraqi citizen from an average of 1,800 per year as of 2012 to 3,700 by 2017.

In addition to rebuilding our roads, highways and bridges, we want to develop the Iraqi Air transport fleet, increasing the number of passengers and the quantities of imported and exported cargo that we carry.

Therefore, we want to add 15 long-range aircrafts, 19 medium-range aircrafts, and six cargo aircrafts by 2017. And, yes, we would like to buy many of these aircrafts from America.

These are only a few examples of investment and export opportunities for American businesses. Among other opportunities, as we open more hospitals and health clinics, we will be buying everything from Band-Aids to MRI’s.

Iraq offers opportunities for American investors. But, let me be clear, you need to make the most of these opportunities.

Iraq is open for business for you. And we need more American companies to open up for business in Iraq.

With Iraq’s infrastructure development plan – and with pent-up consumer demand after decades of isolation – there are enormous export opportunities for your companies, if you see them and seize them.

Two-way trade between the US and Iraq was $21.3 billion in 2012. Iraqi exports to the US were $19.3 billion, mostly oil.

American exports to Iraq were $2.04 billion, including $589 million in machinery, $358 million in aircraft, $311 million in vehicles, $205 million in optic and medical instruments, and $43 million in iron and steel products, as well as $145 million in agricultural products.

American companies can expand these exports. Iraqis want to buy your products. You want to sell your products. Our business climate is improving – and we want to work with you to make it even better.

We are paying close attention to the results of a survey recent conducted by the US Chamber of Commerce’s US-Iraq Business Initiative and the US Business Council in Iraq. Forty American companies with operations in Iraq responded to the survey, and here is some of what they said:

Seventy-seven percent said there are “significant” or “very significant” commercial opportunities.

Forty-six percent cited “security concerns” – and we are striving to improve security and fight terrorism, working with our American allies.

Despite the risks, 83 percent said they would either “maintain” or “expand operations and invest more resources.”

We are striving to improve our procedures and performance, as we work to rebuild our infrastructure, recharge our economy, and restore our society.

A key aspect to enhancing the investment climate and stimulating private sector growth is to reform our banking system and modernize our financial services sector. We have already seen a number of foreign banks establish a presence in our country, and we are boosting capital of our state-owned banks to encourage greater lending to local investors.

In all our efforts, we need and welcome American know-how, American investment, and American products and services. Together, we can build an Iraqi future worthy of our shared sacrifices.

Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear guests, thank you for everything you have done and for everything we will do together.