GENEVA — Iraq’s interim trade minister, Ali Allawi, told the world community this month that the nation plans to seek observer status at the World Trade Organization, and that the nation of 25 million would exempt clothing imports from the 5 percent “reconstruction levy” to be imposed on most other products beginning April 1.
War-ravaged, but oil-rich,?Iraq?is seen as a?potential lucrative cash market for exporters.
“Observer status should help us to acquire a better understanding of the organization’s rules and procedures, and to facilitate our preparation for a request for accession to the WTO,” Allawi wrote in a seven-page document submitted to the world trade body.
The U.S.-led coalition provisional authority, which is scheduled to pass on sovereignty to a new Iraqi transitional administration on June 30, has suspended all tariffs and charges on goods entering and leaving the country until the end of March.
Allawi added, “The recent changes in trade, economic leadership and political policy will move Iraq toward stable economic growth and greater integration in the global trading system.”
Both the U.S. and the European Union are supportive of Baghdad’s bid. Diplomats here predicted that Iraq is likely to get the green light during the next session of the WTO’s ruling General Council on Feb. 11-12.
“We are strongly supportive of Iraq obtaining observer status in the WTO,” said Kevin Moley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and international organizations in Geneva.
“The European Union will support Iraq’s request for observership in the WTO,” said a spokeswoman for EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy.
Brussels, the spokeswoman said, will also continue to support bids for WTO membership “from other countries in the region, including Iran, Syria and Libya.”