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U.S. Trade and Development Agency Backs Rehabilitation of Iraq's Railroads

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA (February 2, 2004) -- Reconstruction of Iraq's railways was the focus of a U.S. business briefing held today designed to bring Iraqi railways officials together with U.S. suppliers of rail equipment and technology. The event was sponsored by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and was held at the agency's headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. The event attracted participation by more than 75 U.S. business representatives.

"USTDA is well suited to provide assistance in Iraq, having built a solid record of rapid response to post-conflict situations in the Balkans in the 1990s and most recently in Afghanistan," said USTDA Director Thelma J. Askey in opening remarks at the briefing.

"American companies have expertise and technology that can make important contributions to the economic development of Iraq. By bringing Iraqi officials together with American companies, our hope is to encourage U.S. private sector participation in the reconstruction process."

During the briefing, Iraqi officials presented an overview of the reconstruction needs in Iraq's rail sector and met with U.S. firms in one-on-one meetings. "This event provided us with a valuable opportunity to learn about the latest U.S. rail equipment and technology," said Salam Jabur Salom, Director General of Iraq Republic Railways. "This information will be extremely helpful to us as we seek to establish a world class rail transportation system in Iraq."

Other members of the delegation from Iraq Republic Railways include Matti Yacoub Matti, Director of Operations and Transportation; Fahmi A. Shabaan, Director of Data Systems; Hakim Jasim Hussain, Director of Maintenance of Way; Najah M. Karim, Director of Mechanical and Electrical; and Mohammad Ali Hashim, Area Manager, Baghdad.

Mr. Gordon Mott, Senior Rail Advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), accompanied the delegation. "Reconstruction of the rail sector is critical for Iraq to reach its economic potential," said Mr. Mott. "Over the past several months that I have been working with Iraq's rail officials, I have been impressed with their competence to develop and implement a strategy to meet Iraq's rail transportation needs."

Currently, the Iraqi rail system lacks the tools, machinery and spare parts necessary to maintain equipment. Much of the rolling stock is out of service due to lack of spare parts or the need to repair damage caused by looting. The track system is currently in a state of disrepair. Moreover, the lack of a signals and communications network is a safety risk and limits the system's capacity.

Additional needs exist in the area of repairing and acquiring locomotives, rail cars, intermodal facilities and equipment.

Under the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 108-106), $210 million has been allocated for the reconstruction of the Iraqi railway sector. Export opportunities for U.S. firms exist in the areas of reconstructing and upgrading rail track systems, track maintenance equipment, procuring and refurbishing rolling stock, intermodal and container handling equipment, rail control and signaling equipment, and communications and information technology.

The Iraqi delegation is in the United States on a USTDA-funded orientation visit to view U.S. equipment and technology in operation. To date, the delegation has visited Chicago, Illinois, and Omaha, Nebraska, for site visits and meetings with U.S. railroad companies, as well as U.S. railway equipment suppliers.

Subsequent to today's USTDA business briefing, the delegation will conduct two days of meetings in Washington, D.C., with the Federal Railway Administration; financial institutions, including the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the World Bank; and other organizations.

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency advances economic development and U.S. commercial interests in developing and middle-income countries. The agency funds various forms of technical assistance, feasibility studies, training, orientation visits and business workshops that support the development of a modern infrastructure and a fair and open trading environment. USTDA's strategic use of foreign assistance funds to support sound investment policy and decision-making in host countries creates an enabling environment for trade, investment and sustainable economic development. In carrying out its mission, USTDA gives emphasis to economic sectors that may benefit from U.S. exports of goods and services.

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