KRG Representative calls US trade delegation a ‘show of solidarity’
Erbil, Kurdistan Region (us.gov.krd)
– The visit by a large US trade delegation to Erbil and Slemani last week was a show of support to the Kurdistan Region, according to Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government Representative to the United States.
Ms Abdul Rahman led the 30-strong delegation representing 25 US companies and non-profit enterprises, which was organized by the US-Kurdistan Business Council (USKBC), a Washington DC-based organization created five years ago to promote commercial ties.
Ms Abdul Rahman said, ‘A visit to Kurdistan by such a large American trade mission is a show of solidarity at this difficult time and a mark of the faith that many have in Kurdistan’s future.’
This was the first US business delegation to Kurdistan in three years and comes at a time when the region is engaged in a war against Daesh terrorists and is hosting 1.8million refugees and displaced people, both of which have impacted Kurdistan’s economy along with the fall in oil prices and lack of budget payments by Baghdad.
Ms Abdul Rahman said, ‘The delegation was made up of American companies that have already invested in Kurdistan who came to show their support and those who had never been here before and are looking for business opportunities. We’ve had positive feedback from the US companies and the Kurdish businesses that they met. We hope that this will be the start of a new phase of commercial exchanges between the Kurdistan Region and the United States.’
The first meeting of the delegation was hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani and several ministers who warmly welcomed the USKBC and the entire mission to the Council of Ministers. Delegation members then attended a seminar titled ‘Building on American-Kurdish Business Relations’, co-hosted by the USKBC and the Kurdistan Federation of Chambers of Commerce in Erbil. The USKBC hosted a reception in honor of US Consul General Mathias Mitman who began his post at the US Consulate in Erbil in July. The delegation then spent a day in Slemani where members met the governor, the chamber of commerce and industry, visited the American University in Iraq Slemani and Faruk Medical City and were hosted at a dinner by Nokan company.
On returning to Erbil on Wednesday, the delegation met Dr Fuad Hussein, Chief of Staff to President Barzani, for an informative discussion of the KRG’s vision for the future, and how American companies can be part of the growth and success of Kurdistan.
Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations hosted the delegation for a discussion on the importance of international trade for Kurdistan. Minister Mustafa said, ‘I am pleased to see our friends from the American business community in Kurdistan. Our companies can learn a great deal from them and there are many opportunities that can be of mutual benefit. We appreciate America’s humanitarian and military assistance and would like to broaden that to other areas such as commercial and cultural exchanges.’
Minister of the Interior and Acting Minister of Peshmerga Affairs Karim Sinjari met with the American business representatives, highlighting the safety and security of the Kurdistan Region despite the challenges it faces. He also discussed the fight against ISIS terrorists and the needs of the Peshmerga for equipment and training.
Minister Noori Othman, the Head of the Kurdistan Board of Investment (KBI), outlined the role of the KBI in issuing investment licences to investors and acting as a facilitator and conduit for reaching out to other KRG institutions and ministries.
The delegation also had the opportunity to visit frontline Peshmerga commanders at Gwer and Mekhmur and laid a wreath at a memorial for Peshmerga soldiers killed fighting ISIS. Together with sector commander General Sirwan Barzani they attended a flag ceremony with over 300 Peshmerga soldiers from the frontlines to mark Kurdistan Flag Day on Thursday December 17.
The delegation was hosted at a lunch by Khudairi Group, a member of USKBC and representative of John Deere, the US agricultural, construction and forestry machinery company. Khudairi executives outlined how the focus of their business had shifted from the oil sector to defense as the demand for machinery from the Peshmerga was now greater.