ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – While a top British trade official visited Baghdad to meet with both the Iraqi prime minister and president, the United Kingdom announced a £1 billion (just under $1.3 billion) increase in trade support focused on increasing public services to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox arrived with a delegation in the Iraqi capital on Sunday to finalize the deal to expand “support available for British firms operating in Iraq, providing jobs and promoting stability in the region,” a statement the UK government released on Tuesday read.
The measure is designed to “promote Iraq’s economic development and nation-building” and ensure the UK trade office “can continue to help the Government of Iraq deliver critical infrastructure.”
Fox formally announced the deal, which brings the total pledged UK trade support for the country to £2 billion (over $2.5 billion), to local media while next to Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi on Tuesday.
After a separate meeting with the UK official, President Barham Salih announced that the two “reviewed the relations between Iraq and Britain, notably in the fields of trade and economy, as well as the need to expand these ties in a way that serves the interest of the two countries and achieves the aspirations of the two friendly peoples.”
According to the UK statement, the agreement includes a $35 million loan for a water and wastewater treatment project in the Kurdistan Region, $1.02 billion to support foreign companies to build two new gas-fired power stations in Basra and to build or refurbish 14 electricity sub-stations across Iraq, plus boosts to several other electricity-based projects.
The deal is a welcome one in a country that has seen thousands protesting across several provinces in the past year, sparked primarily by poor public services provided by a government charged with chronic and extreme institutional corruption.
“The atmosphere in Baghdad is one of optimism – it is a country which is having an increasingly stable period at a time of significant unrest in the wider region,” Fox said.
“The British government, working closely with the UK private sector and our Iraqi partners, have a key role to play in the country’s long-term prosperity,” he added. “The £1 billion we have announced today will significantly strengthen our ability to do just that.”
Fox noted that “trade is about more than economic self-interest,” adding it includes “the means through which we deliver the mutual prosperity that underpins our collective security.”
“That is the true prize of trade policy and promotion done right.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany