U.S. export vision extends into Iraqi energy

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Feb. 14 (UPI) — The official U.S. export credit agency signed agreements with Iraq calling for improved economic cooperation, including in energy, the U.S. government said.

The Export-Import Bank of the United States signed a memorandum of understanding with the Iraqi Ministry of Finance meant to improve trade and economic ties between the two countries. The MOU, signed in Kuwait, outlines potential projects in Iraq that could use goods and services from the United States.

Speaking during the signing ceremony, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the MOU should serve as a reminder of the U.S. commitment to Iraq’s economic development.

“Iraq’s economic health needs the resilience to dampen the effects of every up and down swing in the price of oil,” he said at the event. “Doing business in Iraq can be complicated, but the Iraqi market has vast potential.”

In January, U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman led a delegation to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi to discuss bilateral cooperation in the Iraqi energy sector. Both men said they were keen on strengthening ties, especially in the oil and gas industry sector.

According to the Iraqi government, the oil minister invited U.S. companies to bid for any investment opportunities offered by Baghdad.

U.S. supermajor Chevron operates at the Sarta and Qara Dagh blocks in the northern semiautonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, covering about 279,000 acres in what’s considered complex geology. Most operations are still in the exploration phase.

Exxon Mobil has an agreement with Iraqi state oil companies and Royal Dutch Shell to develop the West Qurna oil field in southern Iraq. Production there reached a milestone more than five years ago at close to 300,000 barrels per day.

The U.S. EXIM bank under the terms of the MOU has agreed to help finance the export of U.S. goods to state-owned entities in Iraq up to $3 billion. Separately, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp., the government’s development finance institution, said it had $250 million in investments already in Iraq and was reviewing $500 million more.

The economic agreement follows U.S. plans to lighten its military footprint in Iraq following Baghdad’s claims of victory last year over the terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State. In response to the 2019 budget plan outlined this week by U.S. President Donald Trump, the federal finance institution said its mandate is to bolster U.S. foreign policy by fostering economic growth in emerging markets.

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