Senior Administration Officials from the Department of State, The Department of Commerce, and the National Security Council
MODERATOR: Well, welcome everybody, and good afternoon. Thank you very much for showing up for this background briefing on the Department of Commerce’s trade mission to Iraq. The opening remarks of this briefing will be on-the-record; however, the rest of it will be on background. And the attribution that we’re going to ask to be adhered to is, please attribute the remarks to either an Administration official, State Department official, or a Department of Commerce official.
Our lead speaker, her remarks will be on-the-record and it can be fully attributed to her. We have representatives here from the Department of Commerce and the National Security Council, [Senior Administration Official] in the middle, as well as two gentlemen from the State Department’s Iraq Office, [Senior Administration Official] and [Senior Administration Official]. We encourage you to ask as many questions as you’d like. We’ll be as frank and responsive as we can be based on the ground rules.
And with that, I’ll turn it over to my counterpart, Mary Trupo, from the Department of Commerce.
MS. TRUPO: Thank you. Thanks, everyone, for coming out. Again, my name is Mary Trupo – T-r-u – p, as in Peter – o. And I am the senior advisor and director of public affairs for the International Trade Administration. I’m here on behalf of Under Secretary Sanchez who is out of the country leading a policy mission to India, another key market for U.S. businesses.
But today, we wanted to talk about the historical trade mission that we have coming up in just a few days. We will be departing with 14 U.S. companies on our way to Iraq looking at business opportunities in-country that will also help create jobs here in America. The trade mission is part of President Obama’s National Export Initiative, where we are looking at key markets abroad for business opportunities at home.
So companies going with us are ranging from the infrastructure, telecommunications, security, and a host of large and small and mid-sized companies. So this mission is the new phase of our relations with Iraq. We have now entered into commercial relations. We’re very excited about the trade mission. We had extreme interest in the trade mission, and you’ll hear from my colleagues on some of the things that we’ve been doing over the past few months that have generated interest in Iraq.
But I just want to say that what we’ll be doing over there is looking to improve our industries’ understanding of the commercial opportunities in Iraq and facilitating matchmaking between the U.S. and Iraq companies. And as I said, it’s a new phase of engagement – commercial engagement – with our Iraqi neighbors.
So I’m not going to say anything more. I’m going to turn it to our experts that you were introduced to just a short while ago. I thank you for coming. When we return Secretary Sanchez will make himself available for a post-brief of our trade mission. So thank you again.
MODERATOR: And with that, we are now going to go to background. If you want to record it or for your own purposes so you may be accurate in your quotes, you’re welcome to do so. But from here on out, we are on background.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This trade mission is a natural follow-on to last year’s –
MODERATOR: Can you identify yourself, please?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, [Senior Administration Official]. [Title withheld.] And the trade mission is a natural follow-on to the U.S.-Iraq business and investment conference which was held in Washington last October. At that event, we had over 1,100 participants. And it was quite successful in terms of not only the number of Iraqi business people and U.S. business people that participated, but also the relationships that were developed which has been the beginning of business relationships which we hope will be long-term relationships.
The trade mission also exemplifies the Commerce Department’s support for the Strategic Framework Agreement, and it also is symbolic in terms of it being the first trade mission since the end of the U.S. Government’s combat operations in Iraq in August. The mission is designed to help U.S. companies gain a better understanding of the commercial environment and opportunities in Iraq. It will help facilitate matchmaking meetings for U.S. and Iraqi companies, and it will also facilitate meetings for the U.S. companies with Iraqi Government officials.
The U.S. and Iraq relationship is entering a new phase which is focusing more on non-security areas, including commercial engagement. And this trade mission, again, is building on the success of the investment conference that we had last year. It will help to strengthen partnerships between Iraqi and American companies so that the private sector will be more empowered to help build Iraq. The mission will give U.S. companies the opportunity to explore business opportunities in Iraq and is expected to be economically beneficial to Iraqi and U.S. companies as well as to the people of Iraq.
The unprecedented interest from last year’s business conference as well as the activities of the U.S.-Iraq business dialogue have shown us that U.S. companies are now very much aware of business opportunities in Iraq and are ready to go and enter the country. I myself served in Iraq in 2003 and many companies were calling because they heard there might be business there. But it really did not go much further than a call and then more interest in pursuing business through the U.S. Government contracting projects.
However, what we have seen is the market is progressing from companies pursuing U.S. Government contracts to companies being more interested in doing business with the Iraqi Government to companies now being interested in partnering with Iraqi companies. So we see this as a natural and very rewarding transition for private sector development in Iraq.
Iraq has many opportunities for U.S. companies that are interested in doing business in the market. Its GSP has nearly doubled from 2006 from 57 billion to 112 billion in 2009. The Iraqi Government has more than 80 billion allocated for infrastructure projects. And the Iraqi Government indicates that it expects its consumer GDP to double by the year 2014.
The Department of Commerce is committed to working with the people of Iraq as well as the Government of Iraq and our U.S. private sector to help develop Iraq’s private sector. And what we have seen in markets, such as Iraq, is the private sector, and creating jobs is absolutely key and crucial to helping stabilize the economy and help the country prosper.
When asked about business opportunities, Iraqis will say, “We need everything.” There’s opportunities in every sector from satellites to major infrastructure projects. Iraq has a consumer base of over 29 million citizens with a large portion of those under the age of 20. It’s centrally located, it has many natural resources and the Iraqi people are educated, hardworking, and very interested in working with U.S. companies. So we do see and recognize Iraq as a promising market for U.S. companies.
This will be the Department of Commerce 24th trade mission since President Obama announced the National Export Initiative during his State of the Union address earlier this year. Since that time, Commerce has led 28 – has led missions to 28 countries, which included more than 250 companies. The National Export Initiative is designed to double U.S. exports in the next five years and support several million new jobs.
QUESTION: Just a couple of clarifications.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: From the last thing --
MODERATOR: Can you identify yourself?
QUESTION: Charlie Wolfson with CBS. Just on the last point, this is just under President Obama and it’s – you said the 24th trade mission all over the world?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: With the Department of Commerce, correct, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. And earlier, you said this is the first trade mission post troops leaving.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: How many trade missions have there been, were there in the – I guess 2003, is it, that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The USDA had a trade mission this past June. The Department of Commerce led an official trade mission to northern Iraq, Irbil in June of 2008. In addition, the Department of Commerce brought over members of the U.S. Business Dialogue in February of 2008.
QUESTION: So this is not the first trade mission to the --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Since (inaudible), correct.
QUESTION: -- to Iraq?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Since the end of combat operations, it’s the first trade mission.
QUESTION: Sorry, can I ask you how many members are in the trade mission?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, 14.
MODERATOR: And before we open the floor for questions, I’d like for the other panelists to have an opportunity to comment, so over to --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If you can pass these out, this is actually information on all the companies that are coming. My name is [Senior Administration Official]. Should I wait until you pass them around? Okay.
We have 14 companies that are going on the trade mission. They are what we call nine SMEs, which is small and medium-sized enterprises, and five of them are what we call large companies. Of these companies, of the 14, nine are what we call increase to market, meaning they’re already exporting Iraq, but they’ll be exporting – looking to export more. Five are new to market, which means they’ve never exported to Iraq, and this will be their first experience exporting there. Three of them are both SME and new to market, meaning they’re both a small or medium-sized enterprise, and also new to market.
The type of companies that we’re bringing range from transportation to aviation, building, safety and security, power, architecture, telecommunications, engineering, and services project management. So there’s a broad range of companies that we’re bringing, and the companies represent 10 states in the U.S. There’s 14 companies. There’s some from Maryland, and New York and PA have more than one. So the rest of the information, if you have specific questions about the companies, it should be in our brochure. And that’s the extent of my remarks. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don’t know. I think [Senior Administration Official] covered the ground pretty well. I mean, let me just add that we think that there are --
QUESTION: Can you identify yourself?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, I’m [Senior Administration Official]. I’m the [title withheld] at the State Department. Sorry.
That we think there are extraordinary opportunities in Iraq, and particularly in certain sectors, if you look at oil, of course, is the thing that everyone thinks of first, which is understandable. But in associated areas like infrastructure and housing and all that goes with the millions of housing units that the Iraqis want to build, water and waste water and roads and – it’s – the opportunities are really impressive and we’re really happy to be bringing this group of companies out to have a look.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And just FYI, [Senior Administration Official] just recently returned from Iraq. He headed up the [title withheld]. And [Senior Administration Official], who is currently [title withheld], has some remarks as well.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, [Senior Administration Official]. I’m [title withheld] here at the State Department and I was actually [title withheld] from February 2008 till 2009 and [title withheld].
Just to put this in sort of broader terms, the President in his February 27, 2009 speech on Iraq stated that we shared a goal with the Iraqi people, and that was a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq. And we are promoting that goal through the Strategic Framework Agreement and a particular part of it, which we’re discussing today, is improving our economic relations with Iraq and helping to develop the Iraqi economy, particularly the private sector. And through a mutually beneficial arrangement where we promote U.S. business, U.S. exports, U.S. investment, and help develop, as I said, the Iraqi private sector.
MODERATOR: And now we can open the floor up to your questions. Prior to asking your question, please identify yourself and direct your question to either the State Department official, the Department of Commerce official, or the representative from the NSC.
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: Can I just make one quick remark? My name is [Senior Administration Official]. I’m the [title withheld] at the National Security Council and served in Iraq from ’07 to ’08 as the [title withheld]. And I think as my colleagues have referenced, and most recently as [Senior Administration Official] just mentioned, the President made commitments in February of 2009 and the President is keeping those commitments.
As we saw with the change of mission at the end of last month, the President was keeping the commitments he made on the security front, but this trade mission is an important signal of the President and the Administration’s commitment to foster a long-term relationship with the Government of Iraq, which is captured in the Strategic Framework Agreement. And there are many signs of our continued engagement on the SFA, and I think as [Senior Administration Official] just said, the trade mission is a perfect example of that. We will continue to be engaged with the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi people to build a stronger Iraqi economy and to strengthen our bilateral economic and commercial relationship.
MODERATOR: And with that, please ask your questions. You’re not going to be limited to one follow-on. Ask as many questions as you feel are necessary. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I don’t know who this goes to. Courtney Kube from NBC News, and I actually do have a couple of questions. So, I mean, first, the – I know at least one and several of these companies used to have offices in Iraq and closed them down for security concerns. Do you – does anyone – do you know, [Senior Administration Official], perhaps it would go to you, but how many of these companies are going back after having closed an office there? Were they targeted for that particular reason since they had had a previous –
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: No, we did not target specific companies to go on the trade mission. We followed the normal Department of Commerce procedure, which is announcement, an announcement in the Federal Register notice, and then companies apply.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. So these companies apply, okay. And then also, what – I mean, how are you going to – perhaps this would go to the State Department – how will you deal with security issues for these companies that are operating there? And do you have any sense on what sort of a footprint they would be looking at bringing in? Are they talking about opening an enormous factory, Bell Helicopter factory there with a thousand people or any sense on that or –
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I can speak to the first part. The second part, the specific plans of companies, it’s something I really couldn’t speak to and it’s really up to the companies to decide. The first part of that, on the overall security issue, security certainly remains a challenge for companies operating in Iraq; that’s true. We make no – we are very clear about that and we are very plain when we provide information to the companies about the situation there. But we also – we believe and we’ve learned from the investment conference last year, from the interest shown since then, the interest shown in this trip, that these companies are willing to explore opportunities. They are taking into account legitimate security considerations. And there are already companies operating there. It’s – you have to work with the security environment you have; that’s undoubtedly true. But we are glad to see that there are a lot of interested companies out there who, taking that into account, feel it’s still a place that they should look at doing business in.
QUESTION: And they’ll all be responsible for their own security, I’m assuming, right? There won’t be –
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: After the trade mission. During the trade mission, of course --
QUESTION: Of course, yeah. Okay.
QUESTION: Yes, (inaudible) from Saudi Press. Just a logistical question. So this mission is – seems like just to gauge some kind of interest, or is – are there practical follow-ups, like they will actually be in place in Iraq? And when hiring comes into play, who are they looking to hire – Iraqis, or are they bringing their own workers over?
SENIOR COMMERCE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It really varies from company to company, like any company going into a foreign country, it’s their decision on how they establish themselves, whether they find a partner, whether they form a joint venture. It’s up to the individual company. And many companies will choose to select an Iraqi company and then establish a facility, but it really is up to the individual company. And the Department of Commerce will continue to support these companies like we do any company that is interested in pursuing business in Iraq, whether it be helping to find a partner, helping them go through their registration process, anything that they need to do to establish a presence or do business in the country.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering, when you – when they’re going over there, I mean, obviously there has to be some consideration given to, like, the – stimulating the economy for Iraqis as well. I mean, it’s –
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: Of course.
QUESTION: I’m guessing there’s like a two-way thing on that. So –
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. Well, we are – we have taken a lot of time to create very good matchmaking meetings for these companies so that they will be able to find very good Iraqi companies. And again, it’s up to the individual company to decide if they’re going to establish a presence and hire Iraqis, but doing business typically requires hiring people in the host country.
QUESTION: Have you heard at all from them whether they’re looking to that?
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: I think at this point, what my colleagues are trying to say is that these companies are now making commercially based decisions. And so when many of us served over there in the past, when I was there in ’07 to ’08, it was almost inconceivable that 14 U.S. companies would want to go over and, again, act as any company in any country does – look at contracts, look at profit margins, and decide whether the deal was profitable for them or not. So I think that’s what we’re trying to express.
And on your other question with respect to Iraqi economic development, under the SFA, as my colleagues mentioned, we are committed to helping the Iraqis maintain – or, excuse me, secure long-term, sustainable economic growth.
QUESTION: Real quick, because I have a follow-up.
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. Sure, yeah.
QUESTION: Laurie Ure, CNN. Are there any U.S.-based government incentives for these companies to work with Iraqi companies more so than going in on their own?
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: I’m not really clear on your question. I think that my colleagues --
QUESTION: Tax breaks, anything for these companies?
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: Well, there are not really specific U.S. incentives; however, it’s common knowledge that if you hire individuals from the host country, you have advantages because you have automatic connections and know-how of doing business in that country. So there are many advantages of hiring people who are already in the country.
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: The incentives come through the matchmaking efforts, so there’s not financial incentives that --
QUESTION: No tax breaks or anything like that?
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: No, no. So it’s presenting them with the opportunities to growth their business by doing business abroad.
QUESTION: I have kind of a big-picture question. Andy Quinn from Reuters. The, sort of, received wisdom about U.S. business in Iraq that it had fallen behind other countries, Chinese, what have you, and I’m just wondering if you agree with that assessment. Is this an attempt to turn that around? Where do we go to try to get back some of the market share we may have lost? And review – just quickly scanning over these, it looks like only one of them has a real energy focus. Why is that? You would think, I mean, as you said, oil is the first thing everybody thinks of when it comes to Iraq. Why is there only one energy company? Is it because the energy majors and their equipment suppliers and so on are already there?
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: Sorry, I mean, answering the second question first, I think you hit it pretty well on the head. I mean, I welcome input from others, but the energy – the energy and the – the energy suppliers and contractors and so on, they’re on the ground. I mean, I think they would have been certainly welcome to apply had they been interested in this, but it’s certainly not because they’re not interested. I think it’s because so many of them are already there.
And the first – I’m sorry, the first part of what your –
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just – let me take that one.
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: Please.
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: One of the things that happens is that people go to what I refer to you as pots and pans trade shows in Baghdad, where you have a lot of consumer goods being sold. And they look around and they don’t see American companies selling toasters and air conditioners and pots and pans and whatever, and they say, ah, the American companies aren’t taking advantage of the market. Well, the reality is that we don’t make a lot of money selling pots and pans overseas. We sell airplanes, we sell generators, we sell architectural services. And if you look at that side of the market, the U.S. is there. Boeing has a very large contract. They’re on the mission. General Electric is selling literally billions of dollars worth of generating equipment to the Iraqi Government. Newport Global is involved with the building of a $300-$500 million sports stadium. So it’s those areas that we’re competitive where we’re selling, and we are actually selling. And there – you don’t sell architectural services at a pots and pans trade show in the Baghdad International Airport.
QUESTION: Okay, maybe a follow-up on that, and this is asking, really, for your opinion more than anything else, or perhaps you’ve got data on it. But does the U.S. history in Iraq – is it an advantage or a disadvantage for U.S. companies? Do we know more people or do more people hate us, or what’s the – how does that work?
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: Speaking as somebody who just got back after a year, there is a great deal of interest in working with American companies and working with the know-how that they can bring, the expertise that they can bring, sort of the global savvy that they have. Iraqis recognize that they’ve really been in a lot of ways very – almost entirely isolated from the world economy for such a long time, and they don’t want to be isolated that way. And no, I certainly – my impression after a year working on economic issues there is that people were very interested in talking to American companies.
SENIOR ADMINISRATION OFFICIAL: And I think what we have to keep in mind is a point I raised earlier, which is that Iraqi companies are looking to work with those that have expertise to offer. And as [Senior Administration Official] mentioned, American companies have expertise to offer in a lot of the sectors. Iraq also has legitimate and important trade relationships with other countries, but U.S. companies and Iraqi companies are making market-based decisions, which is exactly what we like to see.
QUESTION: Mina al-Oraibi. I’m with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. I have a couple of questions. My first is: What’s happened to the Pentagon taskforce that used to work on generating business and so forth in Iraq? Is that still functioning? Is that being phased out? I know they have a lot of work now related to Afghanistan.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It’s – honestly, I would have to check. It’s still functioning, but the details, I have to admit, I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head.
QUESTION: So --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I mean, probably the Pentagon would be the place to ask about that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think as you heard earlier, we have a range of U.S. Government civilian agencies that are helping to foster the Iraqi private sector. As [Senior Administration Official] mentioned earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted a trade mission this spring. Commerce is going out. And the U.S. Government, from a whole-of-government approach, all of our interagency is engaged with the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi people to foster private sector development.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. And then related to the conference – investment conference that happened in Iraq, I mean, that was last October, so --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right.
QUESTION: -- I mean, it’s been a year. So how come it took a year to get this ready? Was it just the matter of logistics or finding the opportune time, waiting till after elections?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was really just a matter of logistics. As we mentioned, since January, we’ve had twenty – trade missions to 28 countries. So we have had a lot of trade missions going on from the Department of Commerce, so it was just really logistics and planning.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And to – I’m sorry, to make the point that things have not been static since last October. It’s not that we haven’t done anything since the investment conference. There’s been – we have a commercial office in the Embassy in Baghdad that’s been following up, and helping with the matchmaking process of people that attended the conference last October. So, just to be clear, that this is one element of follow-on to this conference, but this is not the only follow-on to that conference.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There was also an agricultural trade mission. Also, the commercial service and the commercial section in Baghdad has done catalog shows where they have catalogs from various American companies and put out a display where people can look at American products. So – and a lot of follow-up with the contacts made, some that we don’t necessarily track really well between Iraqi companies and American companies and business leads that they’ve been pursuing since the business and investment conference.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In addition, on a regular basis, the Commerce Department provides counseling advice to companies pursuing business in Iraq. We have also facilitated the visit of – I believe it’s about 14 Iraqi private sector delegations to the United States. It’s called the International Buyers Programs. And these companies are recruited by our commercial service in Iraq. They go to a trade show in the United States and we help to facilitate matchmaking, sometimes some capacity-building, sometimes site visits.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is (inaudible), Japan’s Kyodo News. A follow-up question on the other countries’ activities, especially the government’s role to play. For example, have you been seeing lots of same kinds of mission – trade mission conducted by other governments? If yes, do you have any data on that? And what about the invitation to their country out of Iraq by – have you seen any of those activities done by other governments already?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We’ve certainly seen other countries show interest in Iraq. I know that France has led delegations to Iraq and other members – other countries in Europe. But again, we have to look at this from a long-term economic stability standpoint, and Iraq has important trade relationships with other countries, which is something we certainly support. But with respect to data on other trade missions, I think that the host country would have the most up-to-date data on all of that.
QUESTION: Then is United States the most active country today in this kind of --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In what respect?
QUESTION: In this –introducing its own (inaudible) projects into Iraq and matchmaking and stuff like that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I mean, I’m not sure that we – I think maybe you think that we track other governments’ sort of activities in – so – and in a greater detail than we do. We are – or what I can tell you is that we are very active in helping American companies who are interested in doing business in Iraq and doing what we can to help them look around there – we spend a lot of our time doing that. I spent a lot of my year there doing that.
There are great opportunities there, of course, as we’ve been saying. We are not the only ones who recognize there are great opportunities there, so I imagine there are other – our governments and other countries are doing the same. And we do hear from time to time about other trade missions during the time I was there, but I can’t say I kept a rolodex of these things.
QUESTION: I’ve got a couple of things. One is I forget which of our first two speakers – whether it was the on-the-record part or in other – mentioned jobs in America, and it’s – I don’t know, but are any of these companies – everything that’s been described so far is hiring locals and jobs there. Obviously, the company – American company makes money, but in terms of jobs in America, can anybody expand on that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would talk about – well, first off, when you look at engineering, agriculture – I’m sorry, architectural and technology services, there’s a large portion of the employment that would be American employees. Also looking at oil field and upstream equipment that would be used, it would be made here in America and shipped to Iraq. So there is quite a few of the companies that are going over with us that would be looking at jobs here in America and potentially on the ground in Iraq.
QUESTION: Okay. And – go ahead.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, sorry, just – I think it’s important to make the point that finding local partners in Iraq is a step to boosting job – I mean, if you’re looking for a partner in Iraq to sell your bulldozers that are made in America – I mean, yes, going out there, finding a good partner is the first step. So I just want to make sure that’s clear.
QUESTION: All right. And just a technical question on the cost of this: Does Commerce pay for this whole thing? Does each company pay their own way? What’s the (inaudible)?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Each company – there is a fee and each company pays a fee. The larger companies pay a larger fee and smaller – it’s cost recovery. All of our missions, the Department of Commerce, are cost recovery. So the companies pay for the cost for the matchmaking, for the travel, for the per diem. They cover their cost. Thank you.
QUESTION: When will it be?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It’s next month.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Next week.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That’s tomorrow.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Next week.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We want to be very circumspect about the dates of this for operational security purposes, so --
QUESTION: And how long will they be there, roughly?
QUESTION: Because security is so good that they go -- (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We’ll be on the ground five days.
QUESTION: This may (inaudible) – is there any way to quantify any estimate of how many jobs this could create, any way to say? Is it the hundreds, thousand – anything? Anyone?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It just depends on what deals are done.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would – and again, I’ll just put it – and then this isn’t going to be as precise as answer as you’d like, I’m sure. But I’ll just say that we’re looking at a country of 30 million people that’s sitting on some of the world’s largest oil reserves that’s going to come to be up to more fully take advantage of in the years ahead that is looking to do extraordinarily, extraordinarily fundamental investments in infrastructure, in housing, in health, in really rebuilding an awful lot.
So again, I’m sorry I can’t give you any precise numbers, but the – I don’t know that you can pick many places in the world right now where this much is going to be spent on these sorts of fundamental areas in this amount of time. So it’s --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. But actually looking at the Department of Commerce’s advocacy cases over the past couple of years for Iraq, the deals that have been won are – the total values of the deals is over 7 billion, and then the U.S. content, it’s up about 65-70 percent. So that’s significant in terms of – it’s just shy of – it’s probably about four and a half billion in U.S. content. And so I forget what figures we’re using per million per jobs, but that’s a lot of jobs.
QUESTION: I just want to know how much consideration was given to the – allow for the formation of the government and whether any of the companies – how they’re coming along on this mission and have they brought up these concerns to you or are they worried about what this might mean for the stability of the country. So –
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can’t speak to what our given company may or may not have said. I mean, obviously we continue to encourage Iraq’s political leadership to move expeditiously on forming an inclusive and representative government.
At the same time, it’s clear as well from the interest in this mission, from the interest that I – again, that I saw while I was there, that companies are not sitting on their hands. I mean, yes, we do want to see a government formed and there’s a lot that a new government can do to build up the investment environment in Iraq. But we still see great interest from American companies, both through the mission and just from what we saw in queries and inquiries we’ve had in Baghdad.
QUESTION: Sorry, can I ask you what cities are you going to? Is it just Baghdad?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Just Baghdad, yes.
QUESTION: And one just final question: I mean, the fact that you have an array of officials here and there’s a lot of interest in this visit – I mean, politically speaking, you mentioned, of course, this is part of the strategic framework agreement. So how important for you is it as part of this transition to show the success of this mission and have it highlighted?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’ll put it simply and then I’ll explain. Very important; that’s a simple answer. And as the President, Vice President, and other members of the U.S. Government have made clear, we have a long-term commitment to Iraq across a range of sectors, everything from energy to security to culture to education to information technology. It really traverses the spectrum. And this trade mission is a very important signal of that. And the U.S. is committed over the long term. And as you mentioned, we have a range of U.S. officials here. We have Commerce and we have State, both of whom are playing very important roles within Washington and in Iraq on the ground in facilitating the strengthening of this relationship.
And I can tell you that from across the U.S. interagency, whether it be Commerce, State, Ag, Treasury, Department of Energy, Interior – I can keep going, but I’ll bore you. All of those agencies are working with their counterparts in the Iraqi Government and with the Iraqi people to – again, to expand and enhance our long-term relationship across these sectors.
QUESTION: And is it – is the main coordination at State?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: State is playing –
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The embassy – I mean, yeah, it would – on ground down in Baghdad we coordinate all of the elements that [Senior Administration Official] outlined of the SFA which is economics and commerce. But much more than that, all through, the embassy folks work on it, they coordinate it with us back here, and of course they work directly with their Iraqi counterparts in all of these various sectors in the SFA. And that all – I mean, that activity perhaps is not quite as high-profile as this, but that is something that goes on continuously in all these areas.
MODERATOR: And before we adjourn, I’d like to offer all of the panelists an opportunity for a final word. And I’d also like to encourage to follow up. We’re going to host another event at the Foreign Press Center upon the return of the delegation. Under Secretary Sanchez will speak at that. We should have a very high-level representative from the State Department there as well, as well as some industry representatives who can really flesh out and give you some boots on the ground feel from the trip to the country upon the return.
So with that, I’d like to offer the panelists another opportunity for a final word if they have any. If not –
SENIOR ADMINISTRATOR OFFICIAL: I would just reiterate what [Senior Administration Official] said, this is very important to the President. The trade mission is being treated with the same sensitivity as other presidential trade missions. We’re very serious about doing well by doing good, doing good by doing well. And we look forward to really helping our American businesses make some good connections that will be beneficial both for commercial as well as for diplomatic relations. Thank you.