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Speech by Mr. Ahmad Al-Mukhtar, Director General of Foreign Economic Relations, Iraq Ministry of Trade, to the General Council of the World Trade Organisation

Released 12:00, 11 February, Geneva

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates

This is a good day for Iraq and it gives me great pleasure to come here today to thank you on behalf of the government and people of Iraq for accepting our request for an observer status at the WTO.

It is an important step for Iraq towards integration into the global economy. After decades of isolation, Iraq is beginning to rejoin the international community and your decision today sends a positive signal to the people of Iraq that they are welcomed back and that the world really cares about their welfare.

Since the downfall of the old regime, Iraq has been taking rapid steps towards instituting economic transformations shifting from a centrally planned economy into market economy favoring private enterprise, economic freedom, full employment, free markets and free trade.

Those include lowering tariffs, a foreign investment law and reform of the banking system.

Iraq's oil reserves are the second largest in the world and its natural gas fields the tenth largest. Our people are highly educated and highly motivated. With an economic policy conforming to international norms and practices, those elements would give Iraq an opportunity to become an active player in international trade.

But there is much to be done.

The observer status will help us in many ways. It will give us better understanding of the WTO. It will assist us in adopting WTO-consistent laws and regulations and Iraqis who had been forced into isolation by the previous regime will get the chance to benefit from the vast resources available at the WTO to learn and to build their capacity.

Iraq is undergoing a transition, and today it has taken the first step on the long hard road to accession.

It is helpful to us that you have welcomed us and we look forward to working with a future Iraqi accession working party.

I wish to thank all of those who helped and supported us. We've been warmly received here in Geneva and we look forward to having close and fruitful cooperation in our bid to accede to full membership.

It is indeed a good day for Iraq, and you helped making it that way. Thank you.




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