Establishment of a partnership between Iraq and Japan

Ghanim Al-Jumaily, PhD
Former Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq to Japan

Iraq and Japan enjoyed strong economic relations during the 70's and 80's of the last century. During that period Japan was Iraq's largest trading partner exporting heavy machinery, house appliances, telecommunication equipment and most importantly automobiles. Iraqis loved to drive Japanese cars because only Japanese cars can take the hot summers of Iraq while offering an air-conditioned atmosphere.

Indeed Iraq was country number two for Toyota motor company after the United States. In recent years Japan has been one the steadiest supporters of Iraq providing economic assistance in the amount of $1.7B of grant aid and up to $3.5B in soft loans. The grant aid has been used to rehabilitate thirteen general hospitals, electric power stations, telecommunication systems in addition to providing ambulances, fire fighting engines and the building of a new electric power station among other things. The soft loan will be used to build as well as rehabilitate larger projects such the fertilizer factory, new electric power stations, building of water treatment facilities, upgrading Basra oil refinery, building natural gas network and providing irrigation equipment. In addition, one of the main problems encountered by the Iraq has been the large debt inherited from the previous regime.

In response Japan has played a leading role in reducing the Iraqi national debt by Paris club members of debtor nations reducing its $8.7B by 80%. Japan has also provided capacity building for Iraqi government offering training programs for hundreds of Iraqi officials.
However, the most notable assistant provided by Japan was the dispatch of Ground Self Defense Force to the province of Al-Muthana to deliver humanitarian services to the people of the region with the support of Air Self Defense Force. They provided drinking water, rehabilitated roads, hospitals and primary schools and protected archeological sites from looters. Their good work was greatly appreciated by the local people and the entire nation of Iraq. GSDF redeployed from Iraq in July of 2006and the withdrawal of Air Self Defense Forces completed in January 2009.

The end of the Japanese Self Defense Forces' mission brings a successful conclusion to one chapter in the bilateral relations and the beginning of a new one; namely the building a comprehensive partnership between the two nations. As the security of Iraq has improved significantly, reconstruction works turned into the second phase.

On January 28, 2009, former Prime Minister Abe went to Baghdad as a special envoy of Prime Minister Aso. Mr. Abe signed the Declaration on Establishing a Comprehensive Partnership between Japan and Iraq. After signing the agreement, two Japanese economic missions visited Iraq and had meetings with Iraqi top officials.

When it comes to yen loan projects, about $2B soft loan has been already allocated. I would like to expedite the implementation of the rest of yen loans. Namely I would like Japan to bring Iraq green technology. Iraq is known to have one of the largest oil reserve in the world. We have to use it wisely. We need to curb CO2 emission and stop the global warming. Japanese companies have environmentally friendly technologies that will provide Iraq with clean energy and make clean water accessible to people in remote areas. The synergy between what Iraq has and its needs on one side and what Japan has and its needs on the other can be used as strong foundations for a lasting partnership.

In each case, Japan International Cooperation System (JICS) has worked closely with various Iraqi government agencies responsible for determining the needs and priorities of communities. JICS's excellent role in establishing strong governance frameworks for procurement made it possible to expedite grant aid projects.

On behalf of people and the government of Iraq, I would like to express my deep appreciation to JICS employers and professionals for their generosity and professionalism that have been extended to us.

(Edit:April, 2009)