Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser speaks at a press conference during an investor conference in Saudi Arabia in August 2018. File photo: Christof Stache | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser explained the German firm is striving for more comprehensive projects in Iraq after reports that US rival General Electric (GE) won a $13-15 billion dollar infrastructure contract revamp the country's electrical grid.
"The fact of the matter is Siemens has had a very, very comprehensive compelling concept. Not just about rebuilding Iraq in terms of electrification, but also help the country in training, in education, with the dual apprenticeship program of the German industry," Kaeser said in an interview with Deutsche Welle that was published on Thursday.
There were reports of US President Donald Trump's administration pressuring Baghdad to side with the American company.
"Obviously, there has been some unusual special forces who have been intervening — maybe out of good reasons; that's not my judgment to make," said Kaeser.
Kaeser signed a memorandum of understanding
with Iraq's Ministry of Electricity on October 20. The details have not been publicized and the deal was inked with former Minister Qasim al-Fahdawi who has been replaced by Luay al-Khatteeb in the new government.
"We also agreed to help the people in the freed-up zones for basic healthcare, so it was very comprehensive program which the customer liked a lot," Kaeser said.
GE also signed an agreement with Baghdad in October.
Oil-rich Iraq depends heavily on Iran to supplement its electricity grid. When Washington announced US sanctions against Tehran's energy sector on Monday, it did not grant Iraq a waiver as eight other countries received.
The US State Department later clarified that Iraq could continue to import electricity from Iran for 45 days.
“We granted Iraq a waiver to allow it to continue to pay for its electricity imports from Iran,” Brian Hook, the head of the Iran Action Group said at a press conference on Wednesday.
He said they are "respecting" US sanctions as they relate to Siemens' business in Iran.
"We are very, very clear on that matter and that's exactly what we do," he said, calling the unilateral US withdrawal from the agreement "unfortunate" but now the de facto.
He reminded the audience that Siemens employs almost 60,000 people in the United States which indirectly create another 150,000 jobs.
"We are a massive economic force in the country. We are training people there. We do revenues of more than $20 billion. So we are first and foremost also an American company which we believes deserves respect and a level playing field that we are actually asking for," added Kaeser.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi on his new post, stressed strengthening bilateral relations, and invited the premier to Berlin for a state visit during a telephone call on Wednesday.