Steve Lutes Steve Lutes
Vice President, Middle East Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Anna Burress Anna Burress
Manager, Middle East Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


August 21, 2020


On August 19, the U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Iraq Business Council hosted an executive roundtable with the Prime Minister of Iraq, His Excellency Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and government leaders from both nations to discuss future private-sector opportunities for investment in Iraq.

The roundtable occurred during the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington for a meeting with President Donald Trump on August 20. The trip also coincides with the second meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue, for which the Council recently submitted a report comprised of input from our members that reflected the potential to grow the bilateral economic relationship, and provided recommendations to make progress on some of the biggest challenges keeping companies from growing their commercial activities and investments in Iraq.

The Prime Minister was joined by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Ali Allawi, Minister of Oil Ihsan Ismail, and Minister of Electricity Majed Hantosh. The session also featured participation by U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, DFC CEO Adam Boehler, EXIM Chairman Kimberly Reed, and other high-ranking U.S. government officials, demonstrating a strong commitment and focus on the bilateral economic relationship by the U.S. Administration.

During the meeting, U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant welcomed the Prime Minister’s overarching message of reform with the goal of diversifying and opening Iraq’s economy to new and dynamic U.S. investment and commercial activity. Council Co-Chairs Hillwood and Exxon participated in the roundtable as well.

“Mr. Prime Minister, we know that Iraq continues to face a variety of challenging circumstances ranging from the wake of destruction left by ISIS and the ongoing toll of COVID-19 to the oil price crash and related fiscal issues…all of which lead to mounting social, political and economic uncertainty” Brilliant asserted. “While it may not be a total cure-all, we can agree that sparking economic growth to drive job creation, investment, entrepreneurism, and reconstruction can help alleviate some of the burden bringing a combination of both hope and tangible progress to Iraqis. At the U.S. Chamber, our U.S.-Iraq Business Council and our member companies, including those here today, are committed to working with you and your Administration on this objective.”

Following the roundtable discussion, which focused largely on the energy sector, U.S. energy companies, including Chevron, Honeywell, GE, Baker Hughes, and Stellar Energy, in addition to USAID and the U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC), participated in signing ceremonies signaling their intentions for new plans and projects in Iraq that will strengthen and grow the strategic bilateral economic relationship.

Secretary Brouillette thanked the U.S. Chamber for hosting the meeting and, in the following statement, applauded the continued work of U.S.-Iraq Business Council member companies in:

“As two of the top oil producers in the world, the United States and Iraq share an appreciation for how energy shapes our economies and can strengthen our respective security. That is why I was thrilled to join Prime Minister Kadhimi, Minister Ismael, and Minister Hantosh today for an event featuring the prestigious Iraqi economy and our great American energy companies. Together, we laid the groundwork for commercial partnerships worth up to $8 billion. These deals are key to Iraq’s energy future, and I am confident that the same opportunities that have empowered the United States to become energy independent will deploy their deep expertise to help Iraq achieve its full potential in the energy sector.”

The event featured an important announcement by the DFC’s Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler, who unveiled plans to invest $1 billion in private sector projects over the next four years that promote prosperity and stability across Iraq. With a goal of mobilizing an additional $5 billion from the private sector alongside the agency’s investments, DFC endeavors to support key sectors like energy, financial services, health, housing, and agriculture through this new financing commitment. Boehler stated, “DFC’s investments in private sector growth will support near-term economic needs while paving the way for long-term prosperity and stability. DFC is committed to partnering with the Government of Iraq to enhance the impact of its investments and ensure that they promote inclusive growth.”

USAID’s Assistant Administrator Michael Harvey also took part in signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Iraqi Minister of Finance, announcing their plans to establish a framework for discussions to explore the possibility of an assistance agreement between the two parties.

And, as a longstanding partner in support of Iraq’s reconstruction and development, EXIM Chairman Reed reiterated the bank’s commitment to fulfilling a $5 billion Memorandum of Understanding signed in October 2019. “EXIM’s Board of Directors has already approved two preliminary commitments of export financing support and recently took action to notify Congress of another potential transaction that, in aggregate, would finance nearly $1.3 billion in U.S. power, agriculture, and engineering-related exports to the Republic of Iraq and support thousands of U.S. jobs here at home,” emphasized Reed.

Rounding out the announcements at the U.S. Chamber’s event, U.S.-Iraq Business Council board member TRAC Development Group offered a donation of 500,000 surgical masks to support Iraq’s ongoing response to COVID-19.

Looking ahead, U.S.-Iraq Business Council President Steve Lutes announced the Council’s plans to organize a virtual U.S.-Iraq Economic Summit later this year. With the goal of strengthening the bilateral economic relationship across key sectors like energy, finance, healthcare, infrastructure, ICT, agriculture, this virtual event will bring together American and Iraqi stakeholders from the private sectors and both governments for high-level discussions and networking opportunities.

Moreover, in efforts to address key areas of opportunity for enhanced economic cooperation between our two countries, the U.S.-Iraq Business Council reiterated our desire to work with both governments to establish a U.S.-Iraq Energy Dialogue that includes the private sector to take this energy collaboration to new heights. We also endeavor to work with Iraq’s Health Ministry to create a task force to focus on Iraq’s health infrastructure in the aftermath of COVID-19, and explore how American companies can bring their expertise and innovation to Iraq to improve quality care. Finally, we know that digital technologies are a game changer. In support of Iraq’s digital transformation, the Council will look to formulate a U.S.-Iraq Digital Working Group to develop a strategy and enable an investment climate that promotes the development of a modern, connected society with institutions that deliver transparency, efficiency and effectiveness.

For more information visit the U.S.-Iraq Business Council here.

About the authors

Steve Lutes

Steve Lutes

Steve Lutes is executive director Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He is responsible for managing the U.S.-Egypt Business Council, U.S.-Iraq Business Initiative, the U.S.-GCC Business Initiative, and serves as executive director for each.

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Anna Burress

Anna Burress

Anna Burress is the Manager for Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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