By Mark Simmonds, United Kingdom’s FCO Minister for International Energy.
Iraq is retaking its position at the energy top table. After decades of economic mismanagement and political repression, the country is emerging as one of the most important and dynamic global energy producers. Oil production has increased by over 50% in the last six years, and is projected to more than treble again in the coming decades. This rapid expansion is already redrawing the global energy map, making a vital contribution to international energy security.
I was fortunate to witness this firsthand on my recent trip to Baghdad – the first by a UK Energy Minister since the fall of Saddam, and one of four visits to Iraq by UK Ministers in the last six months. The Iraq I saw was a vibrant society with growing economic opportunities. I was struck in Baghdad by the level of investment across all economic sectors, from construction and manufacturing to education and healthcare. The oil and gas industries are playing a vital role driving this much needed economic reconstruction. It is clear that Iraq’s hydrocarbon wealth must be harnessed effectively to bring prosperity to its people. I discussed this point in detail with Deputy Prime Minister Shahristani and am pleased to see so much progress already in hand. But the potential is even greater, if Iraq makes the right choices with the right partners.
British business is at the forefront of this process. Our biggest energy companies have committed multi-billion dollar investments to Iraq, and I am pleased to see that so many other businesses have followed. The UK is committed to strengthening our economic partnership with Iraq. We must continue to work together to share business expertise across all sectors, but particularly in those where the UK are global leaders, in energy, infrastructure, defence, ICT, education, healthcare, and banking. These themes were explored at the recent Iraq-UK Ministerial Trade Council, which was co-chaired in Baghdad by my colleague Alistair Burt and the Iraqi Foreign Minister, and I am confident that this forum will provide the foundations for future cooperation on trade and commerce.