UK to Open Visa Office in Baghdad; Strengthen Ties

By Padraig O'Hannelly.

In his keynote address to the Iraq Finance 2012 conference in London, the UK's Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint (pictured), announced that the British and Iraqi governments had taken practical steps to improve the working relationship between the two countries.

Refering to last week's visit to Iraq by Foreign Secretary William Hague, he said the governments had agreed to establish a joint ministerial committee for trade and economic affairs.

The committee will consist of ministers from both countries and representatives of the private sector "to create an umbrella structure so that we can have a systematic dialogue on the ways in which we can open up the opportunities for British businesses engaging and investing in Iraq".

He described the move as "extremely important initiative and very timely".

The Minister also announced that the UK would open a visa application center in Baghdad before the end of October, an initiative that may address some of the visa concerns raised many times by Iraq Business News.

"This will make it much easier", he said, "for Iraqi business people to enter [the United Kingdom] ... and will substantially increase the amount of business we do with each other".

He emphasised that both sides were "very keen to build the commercial investment relationship, and undepinning the growth of these commercial ties will of course be the financial services industry, without which we cannot have successful development in any known economic system".

The Iraqi stock market is, he added, at the early stages of "what will be a major capital market by any standards".

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