By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
May 17, 2007 – A Defense Department task force is in Baghdad again this month working with the Iraqi government to revitalize Iraq's industry and restore normalcy to the economy. Paul Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business transformation, briefed reporters in Baghdad today, highlighting the group's latest efforts, including bringing international business leaders to Iraq and giving loans to Iraqi businesses.
"Our process is to engage these industrial operations, to get them restarted, to help restore intra-Iraqi demand and the ties of commerce that existed before," Brinkley said. "We are working in partnership with the government of Iraq to reestablish between different areas of the country, but also to provide access for the global community, the global economic community, to these industrial operations."
The team, which has been visiting Iraq since May 2006, has spent four and a half weeks in Iraq on this visit, Brinkley said. During that time, the Defense Department brought a group of 15 business executives from the Western and international communities to Iraq to engage with Iraqi business leaders and develop economic partnerships.
Brinkley also announced that the Defense Department, in partnership with the Iraqi Ministry of Industry, is offering low-interest loans to Iraqi businesses. These fixed-term loans, totaling $20 million, will go to boost revitalization at about 24 businesses, he said.
"This is part of our effort to partner with the government of Iraq, to restore industrial operations, to reemploy sizeable numbers of people in Iraq, and to restore normalcy to areas of the country where stability exists," Brinkley said.
Yesterday, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of Multinational Force Iraq, visited a large textile factory in Najaf where 1,800 Iraqis have returned to work, Brinkley said. The clothing made in that factory is being reviewed by Western retail outlets and probably will appear in Western retail outlets by this fall, he said.
"We continue to work on contract negotiations with Western retailers as well as heavier industrial operations in the West who are negotiating with the minister of industry and directly with plant managers here in Iraq to move work here to acquire goods made in Iraq, and we continue to see progress on this front, and that's a very exciting development," Brinkley said.
Fawzi Hariri, the Iraqi minister of industry and minerals, also spoke at the news conference, highlighting the importance of the task force's work to the Iraqi people. The ministry of industry is working to open Iraqi business to investments from the Arab world, Hariri said, and is working with the U.S. to bridge the gap in technology that has developed in recent years.
"The team from the Department of Defense and the job they're doing by supplying us and providing us with support, this is the thing that we welcome, and it is so tangible by us, and it's one of the basic things that we've witnessed," Hariri said through a translator.
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