Business people, contractors and sector representatives from Turkey and Iraq gathered in Istanbul on Friday to discuss pressing issues related to economy and trade.
The event was organized by Turkey's Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK), hosted by Turkey's Trade Ministry, and supported by the Iraq Trade Chambers Federation (FCCI) and Turkish Contractors Association (TMB).
Mehmet Mus, the Turkish trade minister, said economic cooperation between Turkey and Iraq will spill over to other sectors.
He noted that Iraq is Turkey’s fourth-largest trade partner, while Turkey is the third-largest trade partner of Iraq.
He recalled that Turkish contractors completed projects in Iraq despite war-like conditions.
Turkish contractors have taken up 1,034 projects to the tune of $31 billion in Iraq, which make up 7% of Turkey's international projects, he said.
Mus went on to say that the bilateral trade volume in 2020 reached $20.7 billion in 2020, surpassing the $20 billion target set in 2019.
He urged for the opening of the Ovakoy-Fishabur and Derecik-Mergesur border crossings with Iraq to boost trade.
Demand for Turkish expertise
Iraq's Trade Minister Alaa Ahmed Hassan Obaid said areas in his country purged of terrorists need massive infrastructural development.
He said Turkish expertise in this field can benefit Iraq greatly.
Obaid went on to say that Iraq is in coordination with Turkey and problems related to the visa process will be resolved soon.
Umed Sabah Othman, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Diwan of Council of Ministers, said their region is in an economic transition period and aims to boost relations and trade with Turkey.
Talib Abdullah Baish, Iraq's deputy transport minister, said railway projects are an upcoming investment opportunity in Iraq.
Nail Olpak, the president of DEIK, said the visa process should be eased and shortened in Iraq for Turkish contractors and workers.
He underlined that there are many fields for cooperation, including logistics, textile, defense and energy.
Olpak added that Iraq should extend the Turkey-Iraq railway network to Iraq’s southern region.
Cafer Resul Al-Hamdany, the head of Iraq-Turkey Business Council, said there are several areas for collaboration between the two countries, including health, agriculture and livestock.
Serow Dizayi, chair of KRG’s Contractors Association, said there are significant projects in his region which could be of interest for Turkish investors.
Erdal Eren, the head of TMB, said Turkish contractors face problems regarding payment and visa processes in Iraq.
"Work and residence permits are costly, and there are problems with the implementation of exemptions," he added.
Abdulrezzaq Al-Zuhari, the head of FICC, said Iraq only cultivates 50% of its agricultural land and this was a great investment opportunity.