Iraqi finance minister Ali Abdulameer Allawi and Ross Connelly, acting president and CEO of Opic, have signed a bilateral agreement formally opening all Opic programmes and services in Iraq.

The agreement should pave the way for increased US investment and business activities in the developing Iraqi economy. Allawi and Connelly signed the agreement at a meeting of the US-Iraq Joint Economic Commission.

Working with transitional authorities over the past year, Opic had already committed more than US$144mn in financing and political risk insurance to seven projects in Iraq, including financing for a US$131mn Citigroup lending facility designed to revitalise small and medium-sized enterprises in the country.

This recent agreement with the new, democratically elected government is the first-ever investment incentive agreement undertaken by Opic in Iraq.

“Today’s agreement signals Iraq’s re-entry into the international finance and trade community after decades of isolation. It demonstrates how both American and Iraqi companies can work together to revitalise the Iraqi economy and improve living standards in the country,” Connelly says. “With this legal foundation in place, Opic will be able to expand its efforts in Iraq. Working together with the Iraq government, Opic expects to demonstrate to US businesses a much-improved investment climate in Iraq.”