The Chamber has hosted a meeting to brief British business about the latest opportunities in Iraq at a time when the country was moving forward with its reconstruction.
A strong panel of speakers with expert knowledge of the market were brought together to inform delegates about the market.
The briefing on 11 June was organised in partnership with the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in London.
Rt Hon Baroness Symons, ABCC Chairman, formally opened the event by thanking H E Dr Salih Husain Ali, the Iraq Ambassador, for his assistance. She also thanked Baroness Nicolson of Winterbourne, the PM’s Trade Envoy for Iraq, who was also participating.
Baroness Symons paid tribute to the ABCC’s new CEO, Mr Bandar Reda, who had made a great impact since taking up his post only a few weeks previously.
In welcoming remarks, Mr Reda thanked the Ambassador and Embassy staff for all their support and praised the spirit of teamwork at the Chamber. He said that tremendous opportunities were currently opening up inside Iraq, which had one of the biggest economics in the region and had enormous potential, much of it as yet untapped.
In his keynote presentation, H E Dr Salih Husain Ali invited British businesses to invest in Iraq and pointed to the legal framework that was in place to protect investors. He highlighted the priority sectors with most potential for investors such as oil & gas, education, health, construction, financial services, agriculture, minerals, tourism, power, electricity and utilities.
The door was open to investors in the major public projects that were needed to rebuild the country. In addition, the Ambassador said that new potential was emerging in the digital economy.
Baroness Nicolson remarked that UK companies needed to pay more attention to the potential of Iraq. While there were 200 UK firms in the market at present, the number should be increased, and we needed to be aware that competition from other countries was strong. Baroness Nicolson called on British SMEs to gear up for export and to look to new markets overseas for opportunities such as Iraq.
Jonathan Dowell, Export Finance Manager, UKEF, described the work of the export credit agency with a total budget of £50 billion. UKEF support helps mitigate risk to UK companies seeking to win overseas contracts by providing guarantees for bank loans. An additional £1bn would be made available to companies operating in Iraq and working on sovereign priority projects, he said.
Mr Antoine Mattar, Director, Consolidated Contractors Group UK (CCC), foresaw major opportunities for UK firms in the Iraq construction sector going forward especially driven by the need to develop the oil fields which had suffered from under investment over many years.
Maher Alhaidari, Business Development Manager, Masters Speciality Pharma, described the activities of his company in supplying medical products to Iraq and around the Middle East. The company is registered with the Iraq Ministry of Health and was working with hospitals, medical schools and health authorities to raise awareness about health matters.
Tom Longmuir, Counsel, Allen & Overy, told delegates that his law firm was active in Iraq advising on big projects and sovereign deals. He stressed that investors needed to be aware that Iraq was still developing its legislation to meet international best practise.
Ignacio Matalabos, Vice President, EMEA Export Finance Team, J P Morgan, outlined the activities of the bank in Iraq. The bank was keen to do more business in Iraq and encouraged more businesses to look to the market for the opportunities that exist there.
The event concluded with a reception and networking.