Interview: Lucrative Iraqi market widely open to Chinese investors

2008-07-24 11:30:58 GMT       2008-07-24 19:30:58 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

Special rep

By Fu Yiming

BEIJING, July 24 (Xinhua) -- As the post-war Iraq is shifting gradually toward full-swing reconstruction, its market with countless lucrative business opportunities is widely open to Chinese investors, Iraqi ambassador to China Dr. Mohammad Sabir Ismail said Wednesday.

"I take this opportunity to reiterate our invitation to all Chinese companies to explore the Iraqi market that lies in the heart of the Middle East region," Ismail told Xinhua in an exclusive interview at his office at the Iraqi Embassy.

"Initial phase, absolutely," Ismail defined current reconstruction process in the war-torn country, adding that its reconstruction process has a sustained growth potential of 20 years.

Listing the progress Iraq has made in recent years, Ismail said security condition has been improved in the country with violence dropped by about 80 percent, and the country's inflation rate is down from 2000 percent in 2003 to the current 12 percent.

Iraq's GDP has registered a 7 percent annual increase and monthly wages in some sectors have risen dramatically from just a few dollars to hundreds, Ismail said.

Iraq expects Chinese enterprises to join in its reconstruction process, he added.

Economic and trade cooperation between Iraq and China has great potentials for their bilateral cooperation shares a solid foundation, "especially in the fields of infrastructure, " Ismail said, adding that Chinese enterprises have "plenty of experience" in this sector.

Ismail stressed the significance of constructing infrastructure which includes highways, hospitals, airports, railways, power plants, bridges and schools.

It provides firm foundation for trade and investment in Iraq, the ambassador added.

Iraq needs to learn from China's experience in agriculture which has managed to feed its 1.3-billion population, Ismail said, adding that Iraq's agriculture has been virtually paralyzed in the past two decades due to wars and international sanctions.

Sustained and substantial investment in such fields as fertilizer, seed, pesticides, forestry and livestock breeding will help the recovery of Iraq's agriculture, he said.

In the two-hour interview, the Iraqi ambassador also listed dozens of areas that Chinese enterprise can invest in, ranging from banking, finance, information technology, tourism and petroleum exploration.

Iraq, whose oil exports accounted for about three quarters of its GDP, has surpassed Saudi Arab and become the world top oil giant after it revised its proven crude oil reserves from 112 billion barrels to somewhere between 320 billion and 350 billion barrels, Ismail said.

"We have just exploited 40 to 80 of the country's total 500 oil

fields," Ismail said, adding that the great potential poses opportunities for foreign companies, including those from China.

"We will reward every country who has offered help to Iraq," Ismail said, stressing that transparent bidding for all international projects will be conducted by the Iraqi government to ensure fair competition.

Any country that enhances mutual benefits without interfering in Iraq's internal affairs is welcome, he said.

Foreign and local investors have the same rights according to Iraq's investment law, Ismail said. "As you can see, Chinese companies' interests can be guaranteed through the investment law."

Ismail said it is the best time for Chinese investors to join Iraq's reconstruction process despite some security risks, and urged them to seize the opportunities.

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