US companies in Erbil 'a vote of confidence' in Kurdistan, signal economic recovery: official
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Delegates from a number of American companies visited Erbil on Monday and met with Kurdish businessmen with an eye on investing in various industries in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.
The Kurdistan Region’s Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the US Consulate General in the Kurdistan Region brought together American and Kurdish businessmen and investors in Erbil to discuss possible areas of economic cooperation and trade in the region.
“This event demonstrates the deepening of business ties between the United States and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, and the renewal of interest in trade and investment here,” US Consul-General in Erbil Steve Fagin said during his speech as he addressed attendees.
“I truly hope that the members of the delegation make new contacts” during their visit and “learn more about starting or expanding their operations in the Kurdistan Region,” Fagin said.
He also underscored “the strong commitment of the US” to the “stability and prosperity of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.”
The delegation represented the US-Kurdistan Business Council (USKBC).
In an interview with Kurdistan 24, David Tafuri, the head of USKBC, noted the organization had brought 35 people from 20 different companies from the US to Erbil to “engage with local businessmen and seek investment opportunities.”
“We’re going to Suleimaniyah [Sulaimani] on Wednesday. We come every year and bring American companies. Unfortunately, last year we could not come because the airports were closed… We feel Kurdistan is open for business, and companies are here looking for good opportunities where they can invest,” Tafuri said.
The USKBC was established six years ago. Their delegations have frequently visited the Kurdistan Region over the years.
Companies in the sectors of constructions, hotels, hospitality, oil and gas, defense and security have a strong interest in the Kurdish region.
“The Kurdistan Region is a fantastic market. It has a lot of resources. It has great people who want to work, who are pro-west, and we believe they are pro-American. We feel like it is a hospitable place to do business,” Tafuri added.
Different companies and corporations are members of the USKBC, including American giant, Chevron.
“This year, the political, economic, and investment environment is better compared to last year,” the representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to the US, Bayan Sami Abdul-Rahman, told Kurdistan 24 during the event.
The head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, Falah Mustafa, highlighted the importance of doing business in the Kurdistan Region.
“This comes at an [opportune moment] because it is post–ISIS, post-election, pre-government formation, with a lot of hope for a better future,” Mustafa argued.
“Your visit is a vote of confidence at this time, and also in the opportunities available in the Kurdistan Region. We’ve been together in the fight against ISIS with other international partners,” he told the visiting delegation, suggesting they would now be partners in the reconstruction of the country and its economy.
“You have been supportive in addressing humanitarian needs, but we want you to be active in the business and economy so that we may provide a better future for the people of the Kurdistan Region.”
Following the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq last December, Kurdish officials have been trying to attract more investment and build trade with foreign companies to boost its economy after suffering from a financial crisis over the past few years.
Editing by Nadia Riva
(Additional reporting by Diyari Shekha)