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Will end of Iraq war deliver opportunities for U.S. businesses?

It’s an historic event many despaired would ever come: the end to Operation New Dawn, the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Oil in Iraq

An oil field in Basra, near Baghdad. Photo: Atef Hassan/Reuters

Now, with final troops just about pulled out, as Reuters reports, another facet of relations with Iraq is dawning: an economic one.   As the Reuters article points out, Iraq needs overseas investment to continue rebuilding efforts, and as the fourth-largest oil-producing nation, its potential riches no doubt will attract many interested partners and investors.  Which makes this a good moment to discern any ties your region’s economy has to Iraq.

If you’re in oil country, you’re probably out ahead of this story — this New York Times story from last June, “As Iraq oil industry rebuilds, American subcontractors dominate the work,” dooes a good job explaining how Iraq auctioned oil fields to raise money, and how the tapping of them has led to billions of dollars of work for American subcontractors even if U.S. oil interests were largely shut out of the auction.

If your area isn’t home to any of the big prime contractors listed in the article, you still might find equipment providers, consultants like architects, engineers and scientists, lenders or other regional firms with relationships to oil work currently under way in Iraq.  Try your state’s chamber of commerce, professional groups and trade organizations like the Society of Petroleum Engineers and others listed in this roster compiled by the research firm PetroStrategies, Inc.

Finding non-oil ties to Iraq might be more challenging, but there’s been a fair amount of trade-related activity (promotional, that is — see this CNN report from Dec. 13 about Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pitching the country to American business leaders last week)  in recent years, so listed below are a few resources you might try for leads.

Aside from them, try your state’s chamber, the governor’s office, leading universities’ business, economics and even Middle East studies departments; you never know.  Even student groups comprised of scholars from Iraq may be aware of regional ties to their home country.  A little brainstorming and detective work could pay off with some interesting financial and business features that will give your audience food for thought.

Next, check out this interesting 32-page PDF, “Doing business in Iraq,” produced in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Commerce.  Note the caveats about scams and investment cautions; that angle too could be updated and developed into the focus of a story aimed at area companies wondering about opportunities in the Middle East.  Legal and cultural requirements for local partners are mentioned; you could speak with U.S. Chamber and state department officials, as well as consulting firms and law firms, about the procedures, dos & don’ts and other information.  Note the resource links in the body of the article to groups and agencies that offer to assist U.S. firms; they might be interesting sources.

I have no idea if government contractors may be extending their operations in Iraq even if no longer needed by the U.S. military, but this list of the Top 100 U.S. Contractors in Iraq & Afghanistan, compiled a couple of years ago by the Center for Public Integrity may provide a few leads.  So might the National US-Arab Chamber of Commerce and the United States Trade and Development Agency.



In Beats, Featured, Investing | Banking, Manufacturing | Large companies, Story ideas.

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