A leading British trade association last week visited the Kurdistan Region for the 10th time, helping to cement Kurdistan's commercial ties with the UK.
The 26-strong Middle East Association (MEA) trade mission met universities, government ministers and officials, and business organisations.
Mr David Lloyd, the mission leader and Senior Consultant to the MEA, said, "This is my eighth visit to the Kurdistan Region. Every time I come, there are new buildings, roads and projects." He added, "I'm also very pleased that we have some leading universities on this mission, and that so many Kurds are choosing to study at UK higher education institutions."
The delegates heard about the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) plans for its 2012 budget of 12 billion US dollars, which include water treatment, waste recycling, power generation, social housing, and continuing the KRG Masters and PhD scholarships abroad. They also saw the designs for tram systems for all three of the Kurdistan Region's cities, although these have not yet been approved for implementation.
Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, the KRG's Head of Foreign Relations, spoke at a business networking dinner for the MEA mission that was hosted by the Kurdistan Business Group. The Minister outlined the needs of several particularly significant sectors and discussed the importance of continued educational development and support. "We need the knowledge and expertise of the international community to help us achieve our potential," he said, concluding: "Our needs are your opportunity."
Mr Lloyd noted that although slow to start, UK companies are now more aware of the opportunities in Kurdistan. Over the last five months alone, the MEA has brought 100 companies to the Region, and plans to bring more for the October 2012 Erbil International Fair.
Ms Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG Representative to the UK, said, "The UK now has the third highest number of registered foreign companies in the Kurdistan Region, behind Turkey and Iran. That is testament to our growing trade links and our efforts to introduce British companies to our market."
The British companies and organisations on the mission covered two broad areas: education and training, and infrastructure and construction. They were hosted at networking events organised by the Erbil and Suleimaniah chambers of commerce, the Kurdistan Investors Union, the Kurdistan Contractors Union, and the Kurdistan Business Group. Their visit was organised by the KRG UK Representation and the Department of Foreign Relations.