Britain seeks to bring companies to Kurdish region

British Ambassador John Jenkins met with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani in Baghdad before heading a delegation to Sulaimaniyah. [Ho New / Reuters]

British Ambassador John Jenkins met with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani in Baghdad before heading a delegation to Sulaimaniyah. [Ho New / Reuters]

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During a meeting with traders and investors in Sulaimaniyah province on Sunday (January 23rd), British Ambassador to Iraq John Jenkins announced that Great Britain will try to bring British companies to invest in the Kurdish region.

Jenkins met with a number of Sulaimaniyah businessmen at the Social Club with the aim to find local partners for British companies that want to do business in the northern region.

"The British Embassy will hold an economic and commercial conference by next spring to bring British and Kurdish companies together in order to find common ground, improve commercial relations and find ways of working together," Jenkins said.

Traders and investors in the Kurdish region were pleased with the suggestions made by the British Ambassador and expressed their readiness to work with British companies.

"The British Embassy seeks to develop commercial and economic relations between British companies and the companies of Kurdistan region so that the British companies can invest their capital in big strategic projects," said Nawroz Khafaf, head of the Sulaimaniyah branch of the Kurdistan Contractors Union.

"As the private sector, we are ready for all cooperation with foreign companies," he told Mawtani. "The regional government provides full support in this regard."

A delegation of British companies previously visited the region for the same purpose, and Kurdish traders and investors have also visited Britain. However, according to statistics from economic and commercial organizations, there are only a few British companies operating in the region.

"Holding such an economic conference by next spring will help introduce these companies and get them closer to each other," Khafaf said.

Statistics from the Board of Investment in the Kurdish region indicate that there is about $14 billion in investment projects in the region -- $10 billion in capital from local companies and $4 billion from foreign investment.

Statistics also highlighted that 25 foreign countries invested in the region, with US companies at the top of the list at over $3 billion.

More than 1,500 companies that invest in the Kurdish region come from neighboring countries.

During a recent press conference, the Turkish Consul General in Erbil Aydin Selcen announced that trade between Turkey and the Kurdish region reached $6 billion in 2010.

Khafaf said that British companies may have trouble competing with companies from Turkey and other neighboring countries, but the high quality of British products will help.

He added that the meeting also discussed efforts by the British Embassy to facilitate opening a branch of one of the large British banks in the region, which "will help strengthen the trend of commercial activities in the Kurdistan Region."