Reviving Trade German Businesses See Opportunities in Iraq

German firms see huge potential in Iraq. One of the Germany's leading business associations expects exports there to increase at double-digit rates in the future. There are also opportunities in the effort to revive Iraq's oil industry, despite massive security and safety risks that persist in the country.

An oil refinery near Baghdad: "There is also demand for German companies in the area of technologies for oil exploration."

An oil refinery near Baghdad: "There is also demand for German companies in the area of technologies for oil exploration."

The Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) said on Tuesday it sees good opportunities for German companies that want to do business in Iraq. "During the 1960s and 1970s, German businesses in Iraq were among the country's most important trading partners. We need to return to that," DIHK foreign business chief Axel Nitschke told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.

The potential is huge. In recent years, Iraq has fallen to the low position of being Germany's 100th most important foreign trading partner. "German exporters generated turnover of €320 million ($510 million) in Iraq during the past year," Nitschke said. But the only way is up. "We expect double-digit growth rates in the coming years," he added.

It's an opinion shared by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In an interview with SPIEGEL published over the weekend, the prime minister called on German businesses to invest in Iraq. Maliki is in Germany on Tuesday for official visits with Chancellor Angela Merkel of the conservative Christian Democrats and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the center-left Social Democrats. The German government recently signalled that it wants to improve its relations with the war- and terror-torn country.

But DIHK officials warn that the security situation in Iraq still presents the greatest obstacle to doing business there. "The risk of working here using German employees is still very high," said Nitschke. Many companies conduct their business in the region from neighboring Jordan, where they work together with partners in Iraq. Companies are, however, able to do business throughout Iraq using the more stable Kurdish areas in northern Iraq as a base.

Currently, Iraq is attempting to revive its oil business. And here, DIHK also sees opportunity for German companies. "There is also demand for German companies in the area of technologies for oil exploration," Nitschke said, adding that oil could provide Iraq with a fresh start economically. Construction presents another area where there is great demand and where German companies stand to profit -- particularly in the reconstruction of the country's infrastructure.

Just over a week ago, German Economics Minister Michael Glos became the first minister from the German government to travel to Baghdad following the 2003 US-led invasion. Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, after holding talks with Glos, urged German firms to invest in his country and to actively participate in the rebuilding of Iraq.



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