Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered remarks at the Business Forum Promoting Commercial Opportunities in Iraq, at the Department of State on June 3, 2011. Secretary Clinton highlighted the United States' civilian commitment to Iraq's future.
Secretary Clinton said, "President Obama and I and our government believe strongly that expanding economic opportunity is as essential as building democratic institutions. We think they go hand in hand. And in particular, it's very important for people going through the changes that are sweeping the region and that Iraq has, in many ways, been a leader in demonstrating, to believe and to see that democracy delivers: Is your life better or not? Do your children have a better opportunity or not?
"And this is clearly not a job for government alone. It is a very important partnership that has to be forged. Businesses like those represented here at this table create jobs, provide livelihoods, increase standards of living, give hope to individuals and their families. And what government should do, whether it's in the United States or in Iraq, is to be a good partner, to help create the conditions for investment and growth that will be broadly spread and create a ladder of economic opportunity for those willing to work hard, to acquire the education and skills required in the modern world.
"Now, we are entering a new phase in our relationship with Iraq, and we are very committed to making a major civilian commitment to Iraq's future. We'll be opening, as you know, and running consulates in Irbil and Basra, we'll have civilian experts available to work with not only Iraqi counterparts, but also Americans and to support American businesses in the years to come, as we do in our diplomatic -- especially our commercial diplomatic work all over the world. And so it's time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity. And the sacrifice that the Iraqi people have made for your freedom is one that we highly respect.
"According to the IMF, Iraq is projected to grow faster than China in the next two years. Now, let me repeat that, because when I read it I said, okay, are you sure because we always think of China as being the juggernaut? But no, indeed, Iraq is projected to grow faster than China."
She continued, "...Today, Turkish, Chinese, French, Jordanian, Iranian companies are lining up to do business. But very honestly, we see too few American companies alongside our soldiers and our diplomats. Iraqis are looking to rebuild every sector of their economy, not only their oil sector but agribusiness, transportation, housing, banking, and many others. For example, Citibank is now engaging with Iraqi financial institutions and working with corporations who wish to invest in Iraq. Now, I do not want to sugarcoat the difficulties. I think, among friends, we need to have an honest conversation about what is it we all need to do to realize these very positive projections.
"Now, one reason there are so many opportunities is because Iraq remains a tough environment. There are still significant security challenges, bottlenecks in infrastructure, unclear regulations, and, unfortunately, corruption. But as our Iraqi colleagues will tell you, they are working hard to make it easier to do business in Iraq for Iraqis and foreign investors alike.
"Now, each company will make its own decisions about the costs and benefits, but we want to go on record unequivocally in encouraging American business to begin that process, and we will do everything we can to support you in it. Our embassies and consulates will be hubs that support commercial activity in every region of Iraq. The State Department will work hard to champion American companies, including through events like this one. USAID, Treasury, the Departments of Energy and Agriculture, OPIC, Ex-Im, and many other agencies have unique and proven experience that we can bring to the table to work with you.
"Ambassador Jeffrey is working hard to establish an American Chamber of Commerce in Iraq, which would be another powerful advocate. Where we have American Chambers, we find they are very value-added. So we think that's an incredibly important effort. And as President Obama has said, the greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa are its people. There's no doubt about that. And we want to see Iraq have a strong democracy and a growing economy that provides stability and prosperity for the Iraqi people, and we need to work to make sure that the investments are there that will help Iraq chart that kind of future.
"I also have to say a word about hiring women. I know that a lot of the best students in Iraqi universities happen to be women, and I hope that Iraq takes full advantage of half the population, ready to work, ready to roll up their sleeves to assist in the transformation of their country. And certainly my Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, Melanne Verveer, is here to talk specifically about some of the ways we are ready to support the integration of women into the economy.
"Now, I'm very excited about what's possible and I'm very hopeful about the future, but I also know, from having worked in many different countries on many different issues over too many years to remember, that the United States stands ready to be a good partner, we stand ready to encourage in every way we can. But ultimately these decisions are up to the Iraqi people: the leaders of the government, the leaders of industry, and, of course, Iraqi men and women who want that better future."
You can read the Secretary's complete remarks here.