Robin Ord-Smith, Director UKTI Iraq, noted the “huge, huge opportunities” for international companies in all sectors including healthcare, education and training, power, water, transport and housing. He acknowledged the leading role played by British companies in sectors such as oil and gas, with BP contributing $12 billion in the last twelve months to Iraq’s exchequer, and noted the “genuine affection and respect” for British companies. However he suggested that the “window is closing” and British companies are in danger of being left behind. Iraq is “one of the great opportunities of the next couple of decades. If you don’t act soon, your international competitors will have stolen a march on you”. These comments were echoed by others including William Wakeham, CEO, AAIB Insurance Brokers, who called for more British companies to have a presence on the ground.
The obstacles in doing business with the market were not glossed over, however, and the practicalities of doing business were also addressed. While improvements in the security situation were acknowledged, there were calls for increased transparency, the speeding up of the decision making process, a more open financial sector, further private sector activity, enhanced export credit facilities, and improvements in the visa regime for business visitors in both directions.
As Gordon Turley, Mott MacDonald, remarked, “There will be challenges, but everything is doable.”
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