Tehran, July 24, IRNA-Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari and his accompanying delegation this week wrapped up a visit to the Islamic Republic that was billed as a "turning point" in the often-troubled relations between the two countries before the fall of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Tehran-based English newspaper, Iran Daily, said on Sunday issue that Jaafari and his high-profile team signed several agreements to bolster economic cooperation and assist the mammoth task of post-war reconstruction in the neighboring state.
"Iraq is a big market for Iran and its reconstruction plan, referred to as the greatest economic plan in almost half a century, provides the opportunity for our able industrialists and businesses to do their fair share in helping Iraq return to normalcy after years of turmoil and misery.
"Estimates suggest the cost of reconstructing Iraq over the next 20 years will be in the region of $300 billion. Bulk of the funding is planned for rebuilding infrastructure including telecommunication, agricultural, industrial, water and electricity, health and education.
"With acumen and efficient planning, our government and private institutions with their high technical and executive capabilities can and should find access to a suitable share of the Iraqi economic development program.
"Given the interest of foreign firms in Iraq wanting to work with their Iranian counterparts, especially in key reconstruction programs, and Baghdad's preference to build closer economic ties to Tehran, it can be said that hurdles in the way of Iranian enterprises in the Iraqi market have been largely removed.
"Bilateral trade last year reached one billion dollars. In this there is a message for our economic officials that they should move soon to institutionalize Iran's presence in the Iraqi market to avoid the bitter experience of our lack of cooperation with other neighbors in the recent past to their respective diplomatic missions.
Iran and Iraq possess vast untapped potentials for bilateral cooperation in important economic areas. Common sense dictates that the first step for tapping such potential lies in each side appointing a commercial attach Organizing exhibitions can help both sides better assess the other's market capability and conditions along with export drive.
"Given the history of bilateral ties, Iranian officials perhaps are satisfied with the volume of bilateral trade in the past year.
However, it must be noted that the volume of Iraq's trade with Jordan and Turkey is much higher than with Iran. This is while the Jordanian or Turkish markets are not as diverse as ours.
"Unlike the Central Asian states and Afghanistan, Iraq has vibrant financial and banking infrastructure that can help lower risks of bilateral trade. Any risks to investments can be removed through guarantee funds or strong insurance cover. A large portion of bilateral trade currently pertains to border markets, which have helped improve the quality of life in the border regions in the two countries. But now it is crucial that both sides move beyond border trade and towards major projects.
"Economic agreements between Iran and Iraq in the past few days, including one for transferring oil from Basra to the Abadan Refinery, or the tour by senior Iraqi officials of our important economic and industrial centers including automotive and chemical plants, shows there is larger scope for economic collaboration in the interest of tour two peoples.
"Iran is a country with a relatively acceptable economic growth rate, and this indicates we concentrate on new export markets. Iraq has a big population and given its geographical proximity it can serve as gateway for Iranian exports to other countries. Iranian ports can be used for exporting Iraqi products to Central Asia, the Indian sub-continent and beyond.
"It is imperative that our economic policy and decision-makers, the incoming government in particular, get their acts together and start building a respectable economic partnership with the people and government of Iraq.
... Payvand News - 7/24/05 ... --