The Iraqi market is a “great opportunity” for Italy and the goal is to further strengthen our “already excellent” bilateral economic relations.
The comment was made by Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi, who co-chaired the 3rd Italian-Iraqi Mixed Commission with his Iraqi colleague, Hoshyar Zebari, at Rome’s Farnesina, during which four memorandums of understanding concerning various sectors were signed.
The meeting was attended by representatives of both countries’ institutions, and by over 30 Italian enterprises, banks, universities and research centres. During the proceedings, four bilateral agreements were signed, concerning the sectors of aerospace engineering, culture and archaeology, investment protection and promotion and the extension of Italian aid credit to Iraq.
The agreements follow in the path of post-2003 collaboration between Italy and Iraq that saw the Italian Cooperation direct approximately €3.3 billion in aid and debt cancellation. As Terzi reminded the meeting, Italy has also provided a similar amount for development cooperation initiatives – for example, the training course for Iraqi diplomats at the LUISS University. Italy is currently Iraq’s top European economic partner, with over €3.3 billion in trade in 2011. The Italian diplomatic network is also working to boost its visa issuing offices in Erbil and Basra, strategic regions for investment in Iraq.
Modernisation and diversification for the Iraqi economy
Terzi pointed out that “The stability of the broader Mediterranean must necessarily include a fully reconstructed Iraq”. Italy’s economic community, he added, “is at the service of the modernisation and diversification processes under way in the Iraqi economy”. Iraq has enormous underground riches (with oil production expected to reach 6 million barrels/day by 2020). ENI, which is already operating there, “can pave the way for other companies in the defence, infrastructure, engineering and construction sectors”, explained Terzi.
Zebari thanked Italy for its continuing military and economic support of Iraq since the start of the reconstruction effort, and said he hoped to see a growth in trade between the two countries. His government, he pointed out, is working hard to “guarantee the security of foreign investment”.
Addressing those Italian companies potentially interested in operating in Iraq, he explained that “terrorist attacks are limited and their influence circumscribed. Many parts of the country are safe and peaceful, while the government is adopting all possible measures to ensure that businesses are not harmed.
The situation in Iraq is “promising” and the country could become a strategic market for the entire region. Not least because “few other countries have our potential”, as Zebari commented at the end of a bilateral meeting with Terzi.
At the Farnesina, the Director General for Development Cooperation, Elisabetta Belloni, presented the new “Italy for Iraq” website. The site includes a digital archive and thematic index to “tell the success stories of our Development Cooperation initiatives in Iraq”. These include projects involving the restoration of artistic and archaeological assets, health, access to water, and the environment.