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Iraq Setting Up Economic Zones In Border Regions

Economists say improved trade would mean better quality goods inside Iraq.
BAGHDAD -- An Iraqi minister says the government plans to set up special economic zones near the borders of neighboring countries, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Iraqi Industry Minister Fawzi al-Hariri told RFI the project will include building industrial projects and business parks, and that agreements have been reached to create special economic zones with Turkey, Iran, Syria, Jordan, and Kuwait.

Yunadim Kenna, the deputy chairman of the Iraqi parliament's economic committee, told RFI that four free trade zones and special economic areas will be initially established in the border provinces of Basra, Anbar, and Nineveh, as well as in Baghdad.

Al-Hariri said some $10 million was allocated in the 2009 budget and more is expected in the 2010 budget for the plan, which aims to attract foreign investment but will rely heavily on private Iraqi companies.

He said corporate tax holidays and other exemptions will hopefully attract foreign direct investment and stimulate local growth by creating jobs.

Economic analyst Basil Jamil Antoine told RFI that many substandard goods are currently being sold in Iraq, but the establishment of special economic zones -- including the industrial areas -- would provide consumers with higher quality products.