How to Do Business in Iraq -An Interview with Dr. Goran Talabani

Episode A06

Dr. Stephen Bryen, Host

Sponsor: SDB Partners LLC (www.sdb-partners.com) “Powerful Access to Hard Markets”

The Second Gulf War started in March, 2003 and, while it has ended, there are still U.S. troops in Iraq. Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the stabilization of much of the country, a democratic system of governance has been established, two major elections have been held, and while still very fluid, there has been a lot of improvement.

Iraq is primarily still an oil economy. According to the CIA Factbook, “since mid-2009, oil export earnings [for Iraq] have returned to levels seen before Operation Iraqi Freedom and government revenues have rebounded, along with global oil prices.” The results for 2011 are expected to be considerably better as Iraq seeks to expand its oil output from 1.9 million barrels of oil per day to close to 2.4 million barrels of oil.

The Iraqi government, despite some fits and starts, has been working to improve the regulatory and legal environment in Iraq and to attack corruption, which unfortunately has been a persistent problem.

Dr. Goran Talabani, who is a Senior Vice President of SDB Partners LLC, is extremely active in rebuilding Iraq’s economy and bringing new business to the country.

Dr. Talabani was educated in Baghdad and at Glasgow University and London University where he received his MD and PhD degrees. He has served in key leadership roles, first in exile from the regime of Saddam Hussein and later as a top interlocutor in Iraq’s democratization and rebuilding. Today he is engaged in infrastructure and defense projects and programs in Iraq, including energy, transportation, communications, defense, security and technological development. Dr. Talabani has set up a number of ventures and programs for European and American companies in Iraq, in diverse fields including communications, energy and defense.

According to Dr. Talabani this is an excellent time to consider bringing projects, technologies and products to Iraq. Dr. Talabani believes that the security situation is steadily improving, and that there are vast opportunities in the country. “Just about every sector” according to Dr. Talebani, “needs improvement” as Iraq continues to emerge from years of dictatorship.

Dr. Talabani advises that American and international companies who want to be successful in business in Iraq, should arrange to have a local partner. He does not think it is either easy or advisable for firms to try and go it alone in Iraq, especially at a time of evolving regulations and changing government organizations.

For American companies there is support available from the Export Import Bank of the United States which recently opened offices in Iraq to help finance short-term and medium-term sales of U.S. exports to Iraqi buyers in both the public and private sectors. Other European governments also have loans and financial guarantees for firms seeking business opportunities in Iraq. And the US International Trade Administration is making available up to date information on sundry Iraqi opportunities ( see http://trade.gov/iraq/ ). In fact, given the abundance of opportunities, and the distance Iraq still has to go to close key gaps, Iraq is a trade “bright spot” against the background of shrinking economies in Europe and the U.S., cuts in budgets for defense and social programs, and weak economies that need exports to grow.

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