ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Egypt understands Iraq’s economic circumstances better than other nations because the two societies have endured similar periods of crisis, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi told a trade summit in Cairo on Sunday. Abdul-Mahdi was in the Egyptian capital for trilateral talks with Jordanian King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. From British rule to military coups, from overthrowing monarchies to cold war relations with Russia, Iraq and Egypt have frequently mirrored one another through modern history, Abdul-Mahdi told business leaders at the Economic and Trade Forum. As a result of these shared experiences, Egypt is uniquely placed to understand Iraq’s economic conditions and the avenues open for its growth and recovery, the Iraqi PM said.
They should therefore develop closer ties. “There are many mutual things which an Australian or an American might not understand due to differences in experiences.
But the Egyptian, due to the similarity of experiences, will thoroughly understand the difficulties we are going through,” Abdul-Mahdi said.With greater economic cooperation and a boost in trade volume, Abdul-Mahdi said Iraq may also mirror Egypt’s GDP growth, which stands at more than 6 percent.Trade between the two nations currently stands at an “unacceptable” level of just $1- $1.2 billion, Abdul-Mahdi said.
“Relations between Iraq and Egypt cannot remain in this form.”According to Iraq's trade attaché to Egypt, Haider Nouri, trade between the two countries stood at $1 billion in 2016.
This increased to 1.2 billion in 2017. With the defeat of the Islamic State group (ISIS) in Iraq and Baghdad's desperate efforts to find investors for reconstruction, trade is expected to grow again.Past Iraqi and Egyptian leaders experimented with socialist policies, leading to a bloated state and a weak private sector.“We want to give priority to the private sector.
Previously we only relied on the public sector,” Abdul-Mahdi said.Iraqi industry and agriculture have been devastated by years of war, sanctions, and economic ruin, forcing the country to depend on imports to meet demand, the PM said. Developing Iraq’s productive capacity to meet domestic demand and boost exports could reverse this trend, he added. Jordan's King Abdullah II (L) and Iraq's Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi (R) are received by Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C) at the presidential palace in Cairo, March 24, 2019.
Photo: Yousef Allan / Jordanian Royal Palace / AFPIn a joint statement following the summit, the Iraqi, Egyptian, and Jordanian leaders said they are committed to greater economic and security coordination. “The leaders discussed a number of ideas for economic integration and cooperation between the three countries, including bolstering and developing joint industrial zones, cooperation in the sectors of energy, infrastructure, reconstruction and other coordination in growth sectors, in addition to increasing trade exchange, bolstering joint investment and developing cultural cooperation ties between them,” the statement read.The Palestinian question, the Syrian civil war, and the conflicts in Libya and Yemen were also discussed. “The leaders also emphasized the importance of fighting terrorism through all of its manifestations and fighting all those supporting terror through funding, arming, providing safe shelters or media pulpits,” the statement added. The leaders agreed to support to Iraq’s reconstruction and the return of displaced communities.