U.S.-ARAB CHAMBER OF COMMERCE CONCLUDES "IRAQ ROAD SHOW" IN SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
Washington State, on Track to Become a "Top Five"
Exporter to Iraq, Promotes Business Opportunities for
SMEs and Such Global Market Leaders as Boeing and Microsoft
The National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC) today wrapped up its "Iraq Road Show" visit to Seattle, Washington, one of America's top destinations for innovation, high tech services, and light industry. The Road Show -- undertaken in partnership with the Embassy of Iraq Commercial Office and supported by the Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce -- is the third of its kind initiated by the U.S.-Arab Chamber in recent months.
"The Republic of Iraq is rapidly becoming one of America's top export markets in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region," noted David Hamod, President & CEO of the Chamber. "There are very compelling reasons to bring the Iraq Road Show to Seattle, where innovation clusters revolve around such market drivers as Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Amazon. With Iraq placing such a high premium on creating a knowledge-based economy along the lines of what has been accomplished in the Seattle area, it makes good sense to create partnerships between Iraqis and their counterparts here in the State of Washington."
Mr. Naufel Al-Hassan, who heads the Embassy of Iraq's Commercial Office in the United States, agreed. "Research conducted by our office suggests that by 2015, Washington will become one of America's top five exporting states to Iraq," he noted. "With that in mind, we made a strategic decision to 'bring Iraq to Washington' with a view to raising awareness here among policymakers and business leaders."
The Commercial Counselor concluded, "This is my first visit to the State of Washington. The people here have been extraordinarily hospitable, and I'm finding that they are keen to learn more about business and cultural opportunities with the Republic of Iraq."
The National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce organized the visit to Seattle in partnership with the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the State of Washington Department of Commerce, and the Seattle Export Assistance Center, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The business entities kicked off the three-day visit to Seattle with a roundtable discussion for 50 Washington State business leaders.
Sam Kaplan, President of the Trade Development Alliance, highlighted the value that such road shows bring to Seattle. "Not every small or medium-sized company can travel with the Trade Development Alliance outbound," he suggested. "Hosting programs here allows these companies to go 'outbound' without spending the money or time to do so. Today's session was especially meaningful because the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is of growing interest to our companies, and providing them with access to these markets is very important."
The roundtable discussion was sponsored by The Boeing Company, which produces hundreds of aircraft annually in the State of Washington, where it employs more than 75,000 workers. America's largest exporter by value, Boeing is on track to provide the Republic of Iraq with 30 737 aircraft beginning in 2013. With that in mind, Boeing provided Iraq Road Show delegates with a VIP tour of its 737 factory in Renton, Washington. Boeing also closed a deal with the Republic of Iraq for ten 787 Dreamliners, and this week's visit to Seattle coincided with the delivery of Boeing's first Dreamliner to ANA airlines of Japan.
During their visit to Seattle, Iraq Road Show delegates talked up the Baghdad International Trade Fair, which is scheduled to take place on November 1 – 10 in Iraq’s capital city. The U.S. Embassy in Iraq sees the Fair as a high priority and an excellent opportunity for American companies to demonstrate how the United States is partnering with Iraq for the long-term. The National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce is serving as a Diamond Sponsor of the U.S. Pavilion, which is expected to draw more than one million visitors, including Iraqi and regional government dignitaries, companies, and media.
According to research conducted by the U.S.-Arab Chamber, Iraq is on track to become America's fourth largest export market in the Arab world for U.S. goods and services by 2013. Exports of U.S. merchandise are expected to grow from $1.65 billion last year to $4.40 billion in 2013, expanding U.S. market share in Iraq from 7.05 percent to 20 percent. In the same vein, U.S. services are on track to grow from $1.64 billion last year to $4.13 billion in 2013, representing growth in market share from 17.52 percent to 24 percent.
NUSACC and U.S. Census Bureau data show that in 2010, the top five U.S. exporting states to Iraq were Texas, South Carolina, California, Arkansas, and Alabama. The main exports included machinery, transportation equipment, computer & electronic equipment, and food.
According to Kevin Reichelt, Iraq Desk Officer at the U.S. Department of Commerce and a member of the Iraq Road Show, the Strategic Framework Agreement between Iraq and the United States is strengthening relations in the fields of diplomacy, economics, energy, cultural exchanges, and the rule of law. Iraq has approximately 192 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), he said, and many of these are undergoing commercialization, which provides an opportunity for U.S. companies to enter the market through joint ventures.
Mr. Reichelt highlighted some of the challenges of doing business in Iraq -- such as visas, an unreliable infrastructure, payment delays, and security concerns -- but he suggested that all of these are part of Iraq's transition from a State-controlled economy to a market-driven economy.
Iraq's National Development Plan 2010-2014, according to Mr. Al-Hassan, highlights such comparative strengths as Iraq's well educated workforce, competitive wages, and investment incentives. He outlined opportunities in such sectors as commercial & retail, housing, agriculture, electricity, industrial, services, youth and sports, health, communications, tourism, and transportation.
Iraq needs 3.5 million housing units by 2020, Mr. Al-Hassan noted. In part because of these burgeoning needs, he suggested, foreign commercial activity in Iraq has grown from $2.697 billion in 2007 to $42.668 billion last year.
According to the United States Census Bureau, he said, Iraq imported $157 million worth of goods from Washington State last year, representing an increase of more than 174 percent over 2009. He characterized this jump as the largest increase by any country that imports merchandise from the State of Washington.
Washington State's growing interest in Iraq was evident during the Road Show visit, which included meetings with numerous small & medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as site visits to such leading U.S. companies as Boeing, Microsoft, and PACCAR International, producer of Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks. In addition, Iraq Road Show delegates visited such educational institutions as the University of Washington and the Pacific Science Center, both of which are based in Seattle. Road Show destinations also included off-the-record discussions with the World Affairs Council of Seattle, a nonprofit NGO that promotes global citizenship and international understanding, and the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank.
Concluded Bruce Chapman, President of the Discovery Institute, "The efforts of the Iraqi government to promote trade in the United States is exactly the right way to improve the image that Americans have of Iraq and to build hope and commitment for a better future for both countries. Today's event at the Discovery Institute illustrated the challenges ahead, but it also offered an inside perspective into the investment opportunities that exist in the new Iraq."