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Volume 407: debated on Friday 20 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps her Department is taking to improve the UK's trading relationship with Iraq. [119316]

British Trade International has set up an Industry Working Group, which will act as a channel of communication to industry in our work to help companies access opportunities in Iraq in the immediate future. We have increased the number of staff working on Iraq in the BTI HQ in London. We are planning to attach three UK-based commercial staff to the British Office in Baghdad as soon as the situation permits, in order to re-establish our trading relationship with Iraq.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions her Department has had with its US counterparts to secure a role for UK companies in the reconstruction of Iraq; and if she will make a statement. [119512]

We expect UK companies to play a significant role in the redevelopment of Iraq. In the short-term US funding is likely to be the main source of opportunities for UK companies. Full details of the US contracts are available on US Government websites.Andrew Natsios of US AID has confirmed to me that UK companies will be allowed and indeed encouraged to bid for US funded sub-contracts. My right hon. and noble Friend, the then Minister for Trade visited Washington on 15 and 16 May 2003 when she held talks with US AID, the State Department and, the US Army Corps of Engineers on redevelopment work in Iraq. We have also held a joint seminar with the US authorities in London on 23 May 2003. This demonstrates that US is interested in ensuring that UK companies are involved.