Southern and central provinces to set up their own free-trade zones

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By Dalya Ahmad

Azzaman, November 13, 2012

The return of normalcy after years of violence to Iraq is luring investors to the region, a senior Finance Ministry official has said.

Sabah al-Qaisi, the head of Free-Trade Zones Commission in the country, said there was a surge in requests by foreign companies and entrepreneurs to invest in central and southern Iraqi provinces.

“The southern and middle provinces will see the establishment of free-trade zones to reactivate and re-energize commerce and investment,” he said.

Qaisi said his commission has received formal applications from the provinces of Babylon, Diyala, Salahudeen, Najaf, Wasit and Muthana for the creation of their own free-trade zones.

The applications signal growing interest from foreigners to invest in these provinces, he added.

Most interest has come from neighboring states, particularly Iran and Turkey as well as some Gulf states like the U.A.E.

U.A.E companies are active in southern Iraq while Iran’s are doing brisk business across the country.

Foreign investors prefer free-trade regions due to the financial advantages they offer and freedom of movement of both manpower and profits.

Qaisi said the commission had the means to help the provinces build their free-trade areas and supply them with infrastructure they need.

The commission, he added, would prefer the investors to concentrate on industrial, commercial and service projects.