Iraq's potential membership in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will not affect agreements with its neighbours in the Gulf, according to an Iraqi government official.
Dubai: Iraq's potential membership in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will not affect agreements with its neighbours in the Gulf, according to an Iraqi government official.
Negotiations for the war-torn country's entry into the 151-member WTO are due to start in Geneva as early as next month.
But Abdul Salaam Al Quasi, from the International Affairs department of Iraq's Ministry of Trade, told delegates at the Iraq-UAE Business Exchange Conference in Dubai yesterday: "Trade with GCC partners will not be put in jeopardy by joining the WTO. We will respect deals that are already signed."
raq would still retain control over certain areas of its economy, as the UAE has done with the telecoms industry, Al Quasi said.
"Some people believe that opening up the services sector too much will impact negatively on the economy, but it is our choice how much we want to open up industries," he said.
"Restrictions can also be placed, as other countries have done. For example we would not give provisions for Israeli goods coming into the country."
Al Quasi also dispelled the myth that joining the international trade body would have a negative impact on the country's economy.
"Many people have said that membership will bring negative consequences. But it will lead to an increase in investment and speed up innovation and productivity. Iraq's goods will be able to compete on an international level and reach a wider marketplace — and there is also the benefit of more transparent regulations."
Al Quasi added that it was vital for Iraq to join the WTO ‘not as an end but as a means'. "It will take a lot of hard work, but Iraq must keep pace with the international economy," he added.
Devil's in the details
Backed by the US government, Izdihar - one of the conference's organisers - is working with the Iraqi government and the country's battered private sector to 'promote a market-based economy.'
So far the agency has awarded more than $10 million to non-governmental organisations in 17 out of the 18 provinces in Iraq. Nearly 40,000 loans worth $78 million have been dispersed to fledgling businesses across the country.
And Drew Sundberg, director of trade policy at Izdihar, told delegates the rewards of joining the WTO far outweigh the obstacles which stand in the way of any country - not just Iraq - gaining membership.
"With international trade they say the devil's in the details. WTO membership helps to flesh out the devil that impacts cross border trade.
"International trade has a myriad of problems, but members such as China and more recently Vietnam have said how joining the WTO has helped break down those barriers ."