Iraq imports 70% of its consumer needs

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By Ali Shattab

Azzaman, November 22, 2012

Iraq imports 70% of its needs from foreign countries, especially neighboring states, said the head of the Iraqi Chamber of Commerce Jaafar al-Hamadani.

Hamdani did not say how much the imports cost the treasury but they are estimated to devour more than half the country’s oil revenues.

Hamadani made the remarks following a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart, Ahmad al-Wakeel, who is visiting the country to boost bilateral trade.

Egypt comes at the bottom of foreign countries trading with Iraq and Wakeel was reported to have complained about ‘hurdles’ limiting the trade exchange.

However, Hamadani said there were no obstacles to trade with Egypt and Egyptian goods were welcome.

Meanwhile, Iranian traders have substantially increased their exports to Iraq and shops in Baghdad and other provinces brim with Iranian goods and commodities.

Baghdad traders say the more than 1000-km long international border with Iran is open for the flow of goods and people and the range and volume of Iranian exports has surged dramatically in the past few months.

According to Jassim Hussein, a Baghdad shopkeeper, Iranian goods, including vegetables, fruits, food items and industrial commodities are cheap and within reach of even low-income Iraqis.

However, some traders complained about the low quality of certain Iranian goods but Wisam Hassan, another shopkeeper, said low quality was not a characteristic of imports from Iran. Low-quality goods from China and other countries flow into the country, he said.

An example of how affordable Iranian imports for Iraqis are, Hassan said he was selling a kilogram of Iranian tomatoes for 250 dinars, approximately 10 U.S. cents, or a dime.

For Isam al-Mahaweeli, an economist, trade with Iran is in Iraqis’ benefit and that the government should not adhere to western sanctions on Tehran.

“Iraq relies on neighboring states for trade and not the west. Meanwhile, the country should not mingle politics with Trade. Sanctions against Iran are unjustified and hit ordinary people and not governments,” Mahaweeli said.