Iraq seeks full WTO membership during conf. Monday

Iraq seeks full WTO membership during conf. Monday
29/11/2009 – 16:14

BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: Iraq will attend the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference to be held in Geneva on Monday within third-round negotiations to be granted full membership in the world body, according to an Iraqi Trade Ministry media source on Sunday.

“A delegation from the higher national committee led by Acting Trade Minister Safaa al-Din al-Safi will be attending the three-day WTO ministerial conference. The delegation will discuss ways to have Iraq obtain full-fledged membership instead of its current observer status,” Faraj al-Jaafari told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.
Iraq had held two rounds of talks with the WTO secretariat in Geneva during the ministerial conference, the seventh one which comes four years after the last meeting held in Hong Kong in 2005.

Taking part in the gathering will be ministers of trade from 153 member states in addition to ministers from countries that have observer status and seek full membership in addition to representatives of relevant international organizations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other government and non-government agencies.

Established in 1995, the WTO has stemmed from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that was set up in the aftermath of World War II.  GATT was signed by 23 nations at a trade conference in 1947 and became effective in 1948. The 1994 GATT pact also provided for establishment of the WTO, which took over GATT’s functions.

Although the WTO operates a dispute settlement process similar to the one under GATT, it has stronger powers to enforce agreements, including the authority to issue trade sanctions against a country that refuses to revoke an offending law or practice.

AmR (S)/SR

Copyright © 2008 Aswat Al Iraq

Iraq drilling firm to drill 180 wells in 2010

Iraq drilling firm to drill 180 wells in 2010

Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:09am EST

By Aref Mohammed

BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) – The state-run Iraq Drilling Company plans to drill 180 oil wells in 2010, and will be able to drill more than 250 new wells every year from 2011 onwards, the head of the company said.

Thirty of the new wells planned for 2010 will be in northern oilfields and 150 in the south, adding roughly 360,000 barrels of oil per day to Iraq’s output capacity, Iraqi Drilling Company director Idrees al-Yassiri told Reuters in an interview.  The number of new wells next year will exceed the total number drilled in the 6-1/2 years since the U.S. invasion, he said on Thursday.

“The approximate production that each well will add is 2,000 barrels per day, that is, they will together add 360,000 barrels per day and this will means additional revenue of billions of dollars for Iraq,” Yassiri said.

“In 2011 the production capacity of the Iraq Drilling Company will exceed 250 wells annually.” He added the company would have 40 drilling towers compared to the 18 it had when Saddam Hussein was in charge. Half of the towers had already been put to work and the rest would follow in 2010.

Iraq currently produces around 2.5 million bpd, and has struggled to ramp up production because its oil infrastructure has been left in a state of decay after decades of war, sanctions and underinvestment.

BIG CHANGE AHEAD
That may soon change. The country is in the process of signing multibillion-dollar deals with global oil majors that will nearly triple crude output to 7 million bpd and transform it into the third-largest crude producer in the world.

The first agreement finalized is for BP and China’s CNPC to develop Rumaila, Iraq’s largest oilfield. It was the only contract successfully bid on at Iraq’s first tender of oilfield deals in June.

Subsequent negotiations have led to initial agreements for an Eni-led group to develop Zubair and an Exxon Mobil-led group to take on West Qurna Phase One.
A second auction of oilfield contracts for 10 largely undeveloped fields will take place December 11-12.  The drilling program spoken of by Yassiri appeared to be separate to those deals. He did not elaborate.

Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has said Iraq will not sit by idly, leaving all the work to foreign firms, but would push on with its own plans to boost output.
Yassiri said the Iraq Drilling Company had drilled 22 new wells in an oilfield bordering Kuwait, aimed at preventing “leakage” across the border. It had also drilled one new well on the Iranian border and rehabilitated another.  Iraq is in talks with both Kuwait and Iran over shared oilfields.

(Writing by Deepa Babington and Michael Christie; Editing by James Jukwey)
© Thomson Reuters 2009. All rights reserved.

Al-Maliki promises no delay in US troop withdrawal

BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraq’s prime minister is vowing there will be no delay in the withdrawal of U.S. troops despite an Iraqi political dispute that is expected to force a January vote to be postponed.

But in an interview with The Associated Press, Nouri al-Maliki warned that the dispute threatens national security. And he harshly criticized the Sunni Arab vice president who vetoed a key election law.

The United States has factored Iraq’s election plan into the pace of its troop withdrawal, including the end of the military’s combat mission by the end of August. Still, the U.S. military has said the schedule is on track for now, and al-Maliki said the 2011 date for a full pullout was “sacred and final.”

Most American forces have already deployed to outlying bases from urban areas.

(Copyright Associated Press, All Rights Reserved)

Clinton:US supports Iraq to pass election law

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed confidence that Iraq elections eventually will be held despite a new delay.  “We believe on balance that there will be elections,” Clinton said. “They might slip by some period of time until this is worked out, because at some point the law has to be in place for the planning to begin, and so there necessarily needs to be a period of time in which the planning can occur”.

“We support the Iraqi government’s efforts to pass an election law so that they can proceed with planned elections,” she told reporters.  There’s a number of ideas that we will be presenting, she added without elaborating.

“We have every reason to believe that elections will be held which will be another milestone on the journey that Iraqis are taking toward full and comprehensive democracy,” Clinton stressed.

Biden to Iraq leaders: Settle election law dispute

(AP) – 2 hours ago
WASHINGTON – Vice President Joe Biden is encouraging Iraq’s leaders to resolve differences and agree to legislation allowing a national vote to take place next year.
Biden spoke with Iraqi leaders on Saturday.

Biden’s office says he encouraged the leaders to finalize an arrangement that would allow national elections to take place in 2010, as called for in Iraq’s constitution, and that would be fair to all sides.

The Obama administration is counting on the elections, required to be held by the end of January, to begin the pullout of about 115,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq.

Iraq’s parliament approved a law allowing land ownership

Iraq’s parliament approved a law on investment allows foreigners to own land for housing projects, and aims to simplify the rules on foreign investment, according to Iraqi lawmakers.

Iraq hope to attract foreign investment with the decline in sectarian violence, (which erupted after US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003) over the past two years, However, the bureaucracy and red tape and the laws of land ownership formed obstacles to investors.  The law should be sent to the Iraqi Presidency Council for approval.

Oil: revenues last month amounted to 4 billion dollars

Oil: revenues last month amounted to 4 billion dollars

Ministry confirmed an increase in oil export earnings during the month of October last, with  $4.187 billion.  Press spokesman Assem Jihad, the ministry’s press department of the National Center for information that the total oil exports last month reached 58 and 200 thousand barrels, indicating that the exported quantities of crude oil last month divided between Basra’s oil, the export of 46.3 million barrels, which came in with earnings of $ 3 billion and $ 331 million, and the Kirkuk oil exports amounting to 11.9 million barrels, which achieved revenues by $ 874 million.

“Jihad and the average selling price per barrel of $ 71.94 per barrel,” adding that the quantities mentioned source was loaded by the international oil companies, which bear different nationalities, of the 27 oil companies from the ports of Basra and Khor al-Amaya across the Gulf, and the Turkish port of Ceyhan across the sea average, and truck tanker to Jordan.

He pointed out that this jihad price of oil is achieved for the first time since the global financial crisis, stating that he will bring additional profits to the country. The total revenue to oil exports during the month of September amounted to more than $ 3 billion.

U.S. official: Iraq may join WTO by end-2011

Reuters

U.S. official: Iraq may join WTO by end-2011
Sun Nov 22, 2009 1:13pm GMT Sun Nov 22, 2009 1:13 pm GMT

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A U.S. official said Iraq had to join the WTO by the end of 2011 if diligently sought for membership that may help reconstruction efforts through the promotion of trade and investment.

Iraq has begun the process of accession in 2004, however, has taken only initial steps required by the membership.  Iraq may also receive limited benefits, given that Iran is one of its major trading partners are not a member of the Organization.

But Larry Morgan, director of international trade, trade the draft of the U.S. Agency for International Development said that some Iraqi ministries such as Ministry of Finance is keen to win membership of the organization as it would boost trade and increase the revenues of customs duties.

The draft and trade advice to the Iraqi Trade Ministry in matters relating to the WTO.

And Morgan said, “As is clear the process is very slow but they are not too far from the track .. I think that if they have made a reasonable effort expected of them will be able to join the end of 2011. This is the earliest possible date.”
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He pointed out that joining the WTO would increase the chances of Iraq to obtain imported goods and the introduction of standardization and quality control and pave the way for the practice of customs chaotic and less bureaucratic.

And Morgan said, “will allow the Iraqi Customs to join the developed world .. for men and women, Iraqi businessmen the country has one of the worst records in terms of time required for the import and export of goods.”

He added that foreign businessmen will feel more protection before venturing into the Iraqi market and to support Iraq’s efforts to develop tourism and financial services sectors.

But analysts warn that Iraq will not likely to diversify its economy to include activities other than oil – which already generates 95 percent of government revenues – and that red tape and political debate are delaying many projects on time.