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Iraqi Bankers Meet U.S., International Financiers in New York, Washington

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA (June 17, 2004) -- Reconstruction and modernization of Iraq's banking sector is the focus of a U.S. Trade and Development Agency
(USTDA) sponsored orientation visit that is taking place this week in New York City and Washington, D.C. Representatives of 12 privately held Iraqi banks and the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq are participating in the visit.

"The development of a vibrant financial sector will be key as Iraq moves into the future," said USTDA Director Thelma J. Askey in remarks to the Iraqi delegation at USTDA offices in Arlington, Virginia today. "USTDA is well suited to provide assistance in this critical sector, having built a solid reconstruction record in the Balkans in the 1990s and most recently in Afghanistan."

The orientation visit was designed to expose the delegates to U.S. banks and to technology, capacity, and regulatory practices in the U.S. financial sector. In addition, the delegates are meeting with U.S. Government officials and representatives of international financial institutions. USTDA sponsored a business briefing today for U.S. firms to learn about developments and opportunities in banking sector in Iraq. One-on-one meetings were held between the Iraqi delegates and U.S. firms to discuss potential business partnerships.

Mr. Kevin G. Woelflein, Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Finance from the Coalition Provisional Authority, is accompanying the delegation. "Reconstruction and modernization of the private banking sector is essential for economic growth in Iraq," said Mr. Woelflein. "This visit has provided the delegates with a valuable opportunity to learn about modern banking practices and will help to make private banks the core of the future banking structure in Iraq."

Private banks are likely to play a significant role in the future of the Iraqi financial sector and many steps have been taken to encourage their development. For example, modern legislation has been enacted to govern important financial institutions, such as the Iraqi Central Bank and the Trade Bank of Iraq. In addition, a new currency has been successfully put into circulation and interest rates have been liberalized. To attract investors, the Iraq Banking Law permits foreigners to buy up to 50% of an existing Iraqi bank without going through the licensing procedure for establishing a new bank or making a majority acquisition.

The delegation is lead by Faleh Dawood Salman, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq. Other participants include officials from Al Baraka for Investment and Financing Bank, Investment Bank of Iraq, Bank of Baghdad, Iraqi Middle East Investment Bank, Basrah Private Bank for Investment, Islamic Bank, Commercial Bank of Iraq, North Bank, Credit Bank of Iraq, Sumer Bank, Gulf Commercial Bank, and United Investment Bank.

Following today's business briefing, representatives of U.S. Government finance agencies made presentations to the delegates. Participants included April H. Foley, Vice Chair and First Vice President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States; Jay Brandes, Director of the Iraq Reconstruction Task Force at the U.S. Department of Commerce; and Dulce Zahniser, Senior Advisor to the President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

Earlier in the week, the delegation participated in meetings in New York City with representatives of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Institute of International Bankers, Bankers Association of Foreign Trade, the Business Council for International Understanding, and the Arab Bankers Association of North America. Following today's program at USTDA, the delegation will have meetings at the U.S. Department of Treasury, the International Monetary Fund/World Bank, and the International Finance Corporation.

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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