A four-day international trade fair for business and reconstruction in Iraq ended in the Jordanian capital Amman, on Thursday.
The event, the second of its kind, was held to attract companies to work in the field of reconstruction at a time when some foreign investors are leaving Iraq due to insecurity.
The first fair was held in Kuwait in January 2004 and attracted more than 1,400 exhibitors targeting key Iraqi economic sectors.
This year, 980 companies from 44 countries exhibited equipment and materials used for reconstruction at the fair.
Issues discussed this time included the needs and progress of reconstruction work, finance, investment law in Iraq, as well as requirements in the telecommunications, petroleum, security, water and power sectors.
"The fair was held to help increase the commercial and technical exchange between international companies and local companies, especially Iraqi ones, in order to help them develop experience in the field of reconstruction," Buchara Nacouzi, president of Commerce International and one of the organisers told IRIN in Amman.
The event was organised by the IFP Group, which is made up of seven companies and is one of the Middle East’s leading business services groups. It specialises in trade promotions, exhibitions and conferences, advertising, public relations and marketing.
“We participated with more than 20 companies from different fields, such as reconstruction, industrial and commercial sectors, and we invited foreign companies for investment in northern Iraq," Abdullah Abd al-Raheem, deputy finance and economy minister in northern Iraq, told IRIN.
At the event, the Jordanian minister of trade and industry, Ahmed al-Hendawi, said that his country was the natural gateway for Iraqi reconstruction, adding that companies would find great facilities at the nation’s ports and roads into Iraq.
Organisers said that the reconstruction of Iraq would cost upwards of US $60 billion over the next few years. "The United States of America supports the reconstruction of Iraq for the next four years and we have bagged [obtained] around $18.6 billion [for this purpose]," Slash Norty, a senior commercial officer at the US embassy in Baghdad, told IRIN.
The US pledged 18.6 billion dollars at the Madrid donor conference in 2003 in which a total of 33 billion was committed for reconstruction in Iraq. The United Nations and the World Bank estimate that $35 billion would be needed for work to be carried out until 2007.
"We will help the private sectors in Iraq to specialise their companies or to put them together. We also encourage foreign companies to invest in fields like petroleum, gas, power, housing and industry," he added.
The event was held in Amman due to insecurity in Iraq that has blocked much of the reconstruction process. High-profile killings and kidnappings have also discouraged foreign firms from getting involved in the process.
The UN and most international NGOs have evacuated all international staff and have been operating from outside the country, although some NGO offices are beginning to reopen.
The ongoing insecurity means many countries have not been able to spend aid and reconstruction budgets earmarked for Iraq. Washington has spent only 20 percent of the $18.6 billion allocated for such work, while other countries are spending cautiously, experts say.
But companies at the conference were optimistic the situation in Iraq would soon change for the better.
"Two years after Saddam’s fall many investment laws and banking facilities have changed in Iraq, all these things help investors to start projects," Awaud Abdullah, an engineer for a US company, told IRIN. "I hope the security situation will soon be good too, so we can freely be involved in rebuilding Iraq," he added.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions