Traders in Iraq make use of
new economic realities

The official Syrian daily Tishrin said on Saturday the businessmen who met on Thursday discussed the possibility of setting up an Iraqi-Syrian bank to facilitate trade relations and create a joint road transport company.

 

They also established a joint committee to deal with economic relations between the two countries.

 

The Iraqi participants arrived in Damascus via Jordan on Wednesday.

 

The meeting was attended by the head of the Syrian Chamber of Commerce, Rateb Shallah.

      

In 2001, according to official figures, Iraq imported $2 billion worth of goods from Syria after the two sides signed a free-trade accord.

 

Business picks up

 

With sanctions lifted and no taxes to pay, Iraqi traders are back in business despite uncertainty over US plans for their country two months after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

 

"There are no restrictions on imports and the traders are free now to import all kinds of goods, including cars," Salim Hassan, a trader in the Karrada area of Baghdad said. "Most of the goods are coming from the north, Iran, Jordan and Syria."

The US interim administration in Iraq has said it will waive tariffs on most items this year to help kick-start the economy.

Traders say that as well as being free from taxes, they no longer have to bribe customs officials.

"Shipments of goods used to stay for days at customs offices and in order to get them we had to bribe officials,"  Ahmed Abbas, a trader said.  "Now there are no more bribes and no more taxes on imports, which were the main reason behind the rise in prices of most goods. We are doing good business now. Goods are flooding the markets and we are making a profit."

The rise of the Iraqi dinar against the dollar, caused by a huge influx of the US currency into the country, has also made goods more affordable.