In remarks to the U.S.-Iraq Business and Investment Conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a key U.S. goal for Iraq is to promote its economic development and integration into the global economy.
For decades, Iraq has been disconnected from the global economy because of war and sanctions. Now there is great potential for broad economic growth, fueled by, but not limited to, oil production.
Secretary Clinton said economic development goes hand-in-hand with a commitment to democracy. But in order for both democracy and economic development to succeed, the people of Iraq have to see results. They must see new jobs, more housing, and a rising standard of living.
Foreign investment is critical to realizing these goals. Already, the widening availability of new technologies in Iraq has expanded business opportunities. Some examples include increased cell phone access, mobile banking, mobile microfinance, distance learning, telemedicine, and mobile support for small farmers who can use their cell phones to check commodity prices or weather alerts.
In an effort to promote the development of high-tech industry in Iraq, the State Department has launched a U.S.-Iraqi internship program scheduled to start in January. Through this program, interns from Iraq will be placed in technology start-ups in the U.S. to expose them to entrepreneurship and teach them technical skills.
Iraq has taken some important steps to promote business development. Recently the parliament passed amendments to the National Investment Law that will allow foreigners to purchase land in Iraq for the purpose of commercial housing developments. But the international business community is still looking to the Iraqi government to do more to create safe and attractive conditions. That begins with holding free and fair national elections in January. Additionally, a hydrocarbon law is vital for regulating the oil sector.
The American people have already invested a great deal in Iraq. "Many families have paid the ultimate price for Iraq’s freedom and stability. Now, as we end our military involvement in Iraq," said Secretary Clinton, "we pledge to secure the gains that the American and Iraqi people have achieved, by affirming our commitment to work with our Iraqi partners to help them realize their own ambitions and aspirations."