BAGHDAD -- A senior U.S. trade official says Iraq is making "steady progress" in its efforts to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.
Michael Delaney, the assistant U.S. trade representative for South Asia, told RFE/RL in Baghdad on February 12 that "the Iraqi government has done a lot on its WTO application process and [it] is pretty far advanced now."
He added that becoming a WTO member will bring "considerable [economic] benefits" to Iraq and would make it easier for U.S. companies to do business in the country.
Delaney said that "the claim that U.S. companies are less active in Iraq than companies from other countries" is false. He pointed out that "two major U.S. oil companies" and many other smaller companies are operating in the country.
Delaney said that the Iraqi government's work in applying for WTO membership has been "long and arduous." He added that Baghdad's application is being treated the same as applications from other countries.
He recalled that Iraq was a founding member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the precursor to the WTO, and, "if history had taken a different path," Iraq would have been a founding member of the WTO.
Delaney said progress in bilateral trade relations has been "uneven," but that there has been improvement "across the range of trade and investment issues...one of the things we are looking forward to is Iraq joining the WTO. We look forward to having in place a full range of trade and investment commercial laws, and we look forward to an updated modern labor law as well."
The WTO was established to supervise and liberalize trade between countries. It has 153 members.