Iraq will open the way for the foreign private sector to invest in 30 Iraqi firms owned by the state and Lebanon is invited to benefit from this opportunity, said Iraqi Industry Minister Mohammad al-Daraji.
“Iraq is in need of foreign expertise in industry and in other sectors; this is why we are inviting the Lebanese to come and invest in government-owned Iraqi firms,” he said at a meeting with Lebanese Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan.
“We will be offering partnership opportunities with 30 companies for the time being but we will also offer investment chances in more local businesses as well in the near future,” he added.
Daraji’s meeting with Hajj Hasan in Iraq aimed at discussing investment opportunities between the two countries in addition to reactivating Lebanon’s participation in the International Baghdad Exhibition.
“We have started organizing exhibitions all over Iraq and we call upon the Lebanese to participate in such events,” he said.
Daraji said Lebanese investments in Iraq will not impact trade activity between the two countries but to contrary they will be complementary especially that Iraq is in need for Lebanon’s expertise in the industrial field.
The minister added that his country would offer another important facility whereby any product that is manufactured at 25 percent of its final value in Iraq will be considered a local product and hence it will be exempted from customs taxes while benefitting from any needed funding or facilities.
Meanwhile, Hajj Hasan vowed to remove all obstacles facing Lebanese businessmen in a bid to encourage investment in the different sectors in Iraq. “Also, what is very encouraging in this regard is Iraq’s keenness to enhance its banking sector by learning from the Lebanese experience in this field,” he said.
On the other hand, Hajj Hasan called upon Iraqi officials to allow the registration of Lebanese medical factories in Iraq, especially that Lebanese products are well known for their high quality.
He also called for removing all obstacles facing Lebanese exports to Iraq including the high custom taxes on cement.
According to statistics by the research department at Byblos Bank, Lebanon’s imports from Iraq amounted to $3.69 million in 2014 while exports reached $ $255.9 million. As for this year, imports from Iraq amounted to $2.48 million up to August while exports reached $153.04 million.
This decline in exports to Iraq is mainly attributed to the closure of the Nassib border crossing between Jordan and Syria since last April which left Lebanon without an overland route into Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf.
Iraqi officials also assured their Lebanese counterparts that foreign businessmen had the freedom to transfer their money outside Iraq. “Foreign investors also have the right to employ 50 percent of their workers from outside the country,” they added.
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