Private sector to bolster Iraq trade in 5-day visit

Dozens of Iranian businessmen will try to increase their investment in the neighbouring country by holding talks with Iraqi traders from all across the country. The visit comes after US Secretary of State Pompeo visited Iraq to help reduce Irans influence there.

13 January 2019
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Iran Chamber of Commerce is leading a delegation of private sector businessmen in a visit to Iraq accompanying Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who travels to the Arab country in a bid to cement the bilateral relations between Tehran and Baghdad.  

The business delegation, comprised of 40 private sector businessmen and entrepreneurs active in production of food stuffs, oil and condensate, textile and medical tourism, will be headed by Mohammad Reza Ansari, Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA) vice president. It is expected to hold talks with Iraqi businessmen and other authorities aimed at boosting the Iranian investment in the neighbouring country which is looking to rebuild itself after eight years of war.

Zarif travels to Iraq just after US Secretary of State Mike Popmpeo held talks with Iraqi officials as part of his tour of Middle East countries. The Iranian foreing minister will be the second high-level official to visit Iraq after the country's Pteroleum Minister Bijan Zanganeh was in Baghdad to make sure Iraq keeps buying Iran's oil ang gas. 

Zangeneh met Thursday with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, whose office said he "confirmed the deep relations between the two countries, the two neighboring peoples and the importance of strengthening them in areas that serve the interests of the two peoples, foremost of which is cooperation in the fields of oil and gas."

The Iraqi premier's office also said Zangeneh "expressed his country's pride in the level of relations with Iraq and the aspiration to develop them, and hoped to achieve more cooperation and to meet the needs of Iraq's gas."

The meeting followed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's meeting with Abdul-Madhi on Wednesday, where the two discussed "U.S. support for Iraq’s energy independence," among other things.

Iraq has been granted a US sanctions waiver that allows Baghdad to continue to import Iran's oil and gas that are heavily used to produce electricity in the country and meet Iraq's energy demands. 

The ICCIMA business delegation will take part in three business forums in the capital Baghada, the central city of Karabala as well Sulaymaniyah in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region bordering Iran. 

Iran’s Kurdistan Province shares 230 kilometers of border with Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region with one active official border crossing called Bashmagh. There are also three active joint border markets between the two regions.

Iranian oil and non-oil exports are dominating the Iraqi market. Tehran's exports to Iraq stands at 11 billion dollars annually, including commodities and gas worth 8 and 3 billion dollars respectively. 

"We exported 6.4 billion dollars worth of commodities to Iraq last year," said Hassan Danaifar, secretary of the committee to develop Iran’s economic relations with Iraq and Syria last week, expressing hope the exports rise 35% to hit 8 billion dollars by the end of the current Persian year (21 March).

Iranian exports to its neighbour rose 40% during the first nine months (April-December 2018), added Danaifar addressing a forum between the government and the private sector in Iran’s western Kurdistan province on the border with Iraq.

Data released by the National Agriculture and Water Strategic Research Center of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce last December showed that Iraq topped the target market of Iranian agriculture and food exports such as fruit, vegetable, milk and other dairy products, saffron and fish.  

Iran has been also supplying power to its neighbours such as Iraq, Afghanista, Pakistan and Armenia. The state firm Iran Power Generation and Transmission Company (Tavanir) says it’s ready to increase the current amount two-fold.

Iraq is also Iran’s first electricity importer. Currently Iran exports 1,200 megawatts of power to Iraq that are supplied from Iran’s western and south-western border areas such as Shalamcheh, Fakkeh and Kermanshah, according to Danaifar.

President of Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber of Commerce, Alireza Kolahi, told Iran Chamber Newsroom in December that Iranian power stations installed in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and the city of Najaf are actively supplying power. He also stressed that Iranian companies have gained the upper hand in winning contract to enter fully in the neighbouring country’s energy market.

Watch video: Alireza Kolahi explains Iran-Iraq power ties

Iraqi tourists made up the majority of foreigners who entered Iran last year. Three million Iraqis visited the country in 2017, that is 75% of all foreign tourists, according to Danaifar. 

This year’s figures show some 2.5 million visitors from Iraq, Azerbaijan and Turkey visited Iran during the last eight months (April-November 2018), Iranian media cited Vali Teimuri, tourism deputy at Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization of Iran.

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