Erbil, Kurdistan Region - A US trade delegation visited Kurdistan Region last week to meet with high officials, and Kurdish companies and trade associations as Iraq and Kurdistan enter a new economic and political era.
A group of 30 individuals representing about 20 companies took part in a five-day trip to Kurdistan jointly organised by the Kurdistan Regional Government Representation in the United States and the US-Kurdistan Business Council.
Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, KRG Representative to the United States, jointly led the delegation with David Tafuri, President of the US-Kurdistan Business Council. Ms Abdul Rahman said, ‘This was a very successful visit that drew a lot of interest from American companies looking to do business in Kurdistan, which has just completed parliamentary elections and is entering a new era of reform and economic recovery. We hope to keep widening the scope of commercial ties between the United States and the Kurdistan Region.’
The delegation met Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani who reiterated the Kurdistan Regional Government’s commitment to boosting the role of the private sector and to supporting investment, both local and international. He said that Kurdistan’s economy had gone through an economic crisis in the past few years but that he could now see the light at the end of the tunnel. He also hoped that Erbil-Baghdad relations would enter a new phase of greater cooperation. Prime Minister Barzani welcomed the visit of the US companies and encouraged them to engage in dialogue with the KRG to smooth the way for their businesses.
The American delegation included companies that have already invested in Kurdistan, such as Chevron, Hunt Oil, Garda World and The Claremont Group as well as companies that were exploring the market for the first time.
The group also met Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, Minister of Interior and Acting Minister of Peshmerga Karim Sinjari, Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami, the Head of the Department of Foreign Relations Falah Mustafa and Minister of Planning Ali Sindi. They set out the KRG’s ongoing economic reforms, steps towards increased transparency, restructuring of the Ministry of Peshmerga, as well plans to diversify the economy to include tourism, agriculture and tourism.
While in Erbil, the Federation of Kurdistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry co-hosted a reception with the US Consulate and the Kurdistan Business Group held a networking breakfast. The delegation met Sirwan Barzani, chairman of Korek Telecom and founder of the American Kurdish Friendship Association. They also visited the offices of SEED, an NGO that provides assistance to Yezidi and other communities impacted by ISIS and issues such as trafficking.
In Slemani, the delegation met with Governor Haval Abubakir who promoted Slemani as an industrial hub since it already has many production plants and is welcoming to business. The USKBC group met Faruk Mustafa, chairman of the Faruk Holding which comprises several companies including in telecoms and healthcare. The delegation met the leadership of the Slemani Chamber of Commerce and Industry who later hosted a dinner for the guests.
On the last day of their trip, the delegation visited a refugee camp in Qushtapa, which is home to 7,900 Kurdish and Arab refugees from Syria. The Barzani Charity Foundation, which manages the camp, and the KRG Joint Crisis Center, highlighted their concern at the reduction of international aid while there appears to be little likelihood that the 250,000 Syrian refugees or the 1.2 million Iraqi IDPs would return home.