Mohammed Shariatmadari, Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Business, is flanked by KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani (right) and his deputy Qubad Talabani at a trade conference in Erbil on May 2, 2018. Photo: Rudaw
Kurdistan Regional Government Planning Minister Ali Sindi proposed a concrete plan for the Iraqi and Iranian governments to facilitate trade and economic movements between the three sides.
“First, facilitations need to be made for the importation and exportation of goods and services, especially high quality commodities,” Sindi urged. “Second, unofficial border crossings, where trading is taking place needs to be recognized, so that it can become official and come under controls and monitors on both sides.”
Sindi is also acting trade and industry minister.
“It should be possible to consider the Kurdistan Region as a long-term strategic market, not a short-term one,” he underscored in his third point.
His final call was for the Iraqi government to remove the Safra checkpoint.
“I would like to ask the Iraqi government to resolve the problem of Safra checkpoint, as it benefits no sides, neither Iran, nor the Kurdistan Region nor Iranian investors,” he said.
Safra is a checkpoint set the Baghdad-Kirkuk road. Any goods or services exported to southern and central Iraqi provinces are subject to tariff at a customs office.
Iranian minister urges joint economic committee with Kurdistan
Mohammed Shariatmadari, Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Business, described the Kurdistan Region as “an instrumental investment center.”
He urged the formation of a joint economic committee between Iranian and Kurdish business people and officials to work on issues affecting both sides.
One of the current pressing issues is the five unofficial border crossings and alleged high tariffs, which encourages black market trading and a system of difficult to obtain licenses for Iranian Kurdish kolbars (cross-border porters).
Shariatmadari added that Iran wants to strengthen its economic and trade ties with Iraq, particularly in the Kurdistan Region.
He added as the Islamic Republic of Iran, they would do their utmost to provide “stabilized” trade routes for both sides.
The Iranian minister urged Tehran, Baghdad, and Erbil to pursue free markets between one another.
PM Barzani floats 'free-trade zone' at Iran border crossing
Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister in the Kurdistan Region, spoke at the conference on Wednesday, encouraging stronger economic relations between the KRG and Iran's industries and teasing the idea of "free-trade zones."
“We hope this conference will become a factor for bolstering the economic ties between the Region, Baghdad and Tehran and help find solutions to the existing problems,” PM Barzani said.
Barzani described the conference as “very important” for Iran, the Kurdistan Region, and also Iraq.
“The Kurdistan Region has always worked to develop and diversity its economic relations with Iran,” Barzani voiced, adding the Iraq-Iran trade volume is $6.5 billion.
Barzani explained 67 percent of automobiles are imported into the Kurdistan Region through Iran.
He said 359 Iranian companies and 135 factories operate in the Kurdistan Region.
“They have made hundreds of job opportunities in the Kurdistan Region,” Barzani said of the Iranian firms.
Barzani noted that in addition to the three official border crossings between Iran and the Kurdistan Region — Haji Omaran, Bashmakh and Parvizkhan — there are five more unofficial crossings.
“We are working to make them also international,” he said.
He added they would work to “build a free-trade zone at the Parvizkhan border.”
“The government has for this purpose made some practical steps and designated some areas for it. Yet more practical steps need to be made by both, the KRG and the Iraqi government,” Barzani added.
He hoped the conference “will lay the groundwork” for the project to start work.
He added Baghdad-Erbil ties have improved after the independence vote, has helped resolve plenty of issues based on the constitution.
This will help increase trade volumes with Iran once again, Barzani said.
“We are also seizing this conference as an opportunity to ask the both sides’ entrepreneurs, businessmen, and investors to work together. And the Kurdistan Region will fully facilitate facilitation in these regards,” he added.
He described the Iran and the Kurdistan Region’s as historically rooted neighbors.
“During hardship, they opened their doors to the Kurdistan Region's refugees,” Barzani said, referring to the massive influx of Kurdish refugees fleeing to Iran during the 1991 March mass exodus, as millions of starving Kurds trekked the mountainous roads into Iran fearing the ex-Baathist regime.
Barzani added Iran came to the aid of the Kurdistan Region during the fight against ISIS, saying they would not forget that and thanking them.
Kurdistan kicks off commerce conference with Iranian officials
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — A high-level Iranian delegation led by the country’s business minister arrived in Erbil on Wednesday to take part in a conference aiming to strengthen joint trade ties.
“The development of assistance in all fields including industry and reconstruction between Iran and the Kurdistan Region has been there and we intend to develop them further,” Mohammed Shariatmadari, Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Business, told Rudaw.
Shariatmadari was received at the airport by the KRG Planning Minister Ali Sindi, who is also acting trade and industry minister.
The conference lasts two days and will begin at 10 a.m. in Erbil. It was organized by the KRG’s Chamber of Commerce.
KRG Prime Nechirvan Barzani, Iraq’s Mineral and Industry Minister Mohammed al-Sudani will also participate in the conference.
They’ll discuss economic ties between Erbil and Tehran, strengthening tourism sector as well as other relevant matters.
Trade volume between the Region and Iran was around $5.5 billion in 2017.
As the Kurdistan Region held its independence referendum in September 2017, relations between the two sides deteriorated as Iran closed its borders and airspace. The border officially reopened in late January and the flights restarted in March.
This is a developing story…