Thursday 27 June 2019

US Chamber visit to Erbil and signing of historic MoU with Kurdish counterparts exemplify economic recovery

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq ( - A US Chamber of Commerce delegation led by US Chamber Vice President for the Middle East, Steve Lutes, visited Kurdistan this week to seek trade opportunities and meet local officials and  businesses.

The trip, which was jointly led by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Peek, was organized in cooperation with the Kurdistan Regional Government Representation in the United States, with Representative Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman.

The visit began with the signing of a historic memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Kurdistan Federation of Chambers of Commerce and the US Chamber, which outlines ways the two organizations will work together on exchanging information, organizing trade visits to the US and Kurdistan, and helping their members do business in each other’s markets.

The delegation consisted of nearly 50 people representing about 30 entities. Among the companies represented were Citibank, Cisco Systems, Hillwood, Contrack Watts, CNH Industrial Services, and Siemens USA. Some companies were already operating and had invested in Kurdistan while others are new to the market.

During the four-day visit, the delegation was received at a reception hosted by the Kurdistan chambers of commerce to celebrate the signing of the MoU. President Nechirvan Barzani, speaking at the reception, said, “Kurdistan Region has a suitable environment for investment and we will facilitate, assist and support investors. We are anxiously waiting for the US private and investment sector to play a big role here. They can work together with the local private sector and government.” He noted that Kurdistan is the gateway to Iraq and can be the platform to the wider market across the country.

In his remarks, Deputy Assistant Secretary Peek said that supporting the Kurdistan Region is a critical policy position of the US.

Steve Lutes said, “We are here because we are optimistic about the future of Iraq, about the future of Kurdistan Region in Iraq,”

US Consul General in Erbil Steve Fagin welcomed the US Chamber to the Kurdistan Region, and noted that private sector growth will be key to Kurdistan’s long-term economic growth.

Dara Khayat, President of the Kurdistan Federation of Chambers of Commerce said that the signing of the MoU was “a historic day for the Kurdistan Region”

The delegation met Prime Minister-designate Masrour Barzani who hosted them for lunch. He detailed his plans to reduce Kurdistan’s dependence on oil and gas by investing in agriculture, industry and tourism, among other sectors. He also set out his plan for a government that will deliver and be transparent, responsive, and responsible. The Prime Minister-designate said that economic reform and growth would be a key focus.

The US Chamber companies also met Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani who discussed the KRG’s plan to digitize services and government operations to reduce bureaucracy for citizens and ease business. 

The Kurdistan Business Group, an Erbil-based organization, hosted a networking breakfast that was attended by 150 local company representatives. Minister Falah Mustafa, Head is the KRG’s Department of Foreign Relations, was the keynote speaker. He said that the US is a great partner and ally of Kurdistan, and highlighted the important role of US companies in Kurdistan’s economy.

The delegation had meetings and panel discussions with  Karim Sinjari, Minister of the Interior and Acting Minister of Peshmerga; Dr Ashti Hawrami, the Minister of Natural Resources and Electricity; Nawroz Mawlood, Minister of Municipalities and Tourism; Dr Noori Othman, the Head of the Kurdistan Investment Board; and Agreen Aziz, Deputy Minister of Construction and Housing.

The delegation also met with the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hemin Hawrami.

They had separate discussions with the Slemani Chamber and the provincial Governors of Slemani, Heval Abubakir, Erbil, Nawzad Hadi, and Halabja, Azad Tofiq. They also had an exchange with the Erbil Chamber of commerce.

During the visit, members of the delegation visited the ancient Erbil citadel, the Textile Museum and a historic tea house in the city’s famed Qaysari Bazaar. On the last day, the US Chamber team visited Lake Dukan.