Friday, January 1, 2010

Largest Japanese delegation to Iraq in 20 years

Koichi Takemasa, Japan State Secretary for Foreign Affairs (pictured), toured Iraq and Jordan mid-December to enhance the DPJ government's political and economic relations.

On the 20th, Takemasa attended the Second Japan-Iraq Business Forum, which was held at Baghdad Airport. A high-level delegation of Iraqi officials, led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, greeted the 100-strong Japanese delegation, by far the largest Japanese business group to visit Iraq since the Persian Gulf Crisis of 1990.

Prime Minister al-Maliki said his country had become a constitutional democracy, and he called on Japanese firms to help with Iraq’s postwar reconstruction, saying the country presented a great business opportunity: “We want Japan to use its experience of rehabilitation from World War II.

“This forum represents a landmark in the history of investment conferences that we have held thus far… Your presence in Baghdad, at this particular time, is a very important message to terrorists who are still trying to disrupt the process of rebuilding and reconstruction through criminal bombings aimed at intimidating and preventing foreign companies from entering the Iraqi market.”

The forum included meetings between Iraqi and Japanese businesspeople and a seminar on doing business in Iraq. Thirty-one Japanese companies sent representatives.

Before heading to Jordan, Takemasa spent one evening at the Japanese Embassy compound in central Baghdad. He held separate talks with Iraqi Parliament Speaker Ayad al-Samarrai as well as the two Iraqi vice-presidents, Adel Abdul Mahdi and Tariq al-Hashimi.

After leaving Iraq on the 21st, Koichi Takemasa traveled by plane to Jordan. One of the main tasks of the visit was to meet Samir Rifai, the new Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Jordan. He also held meetings with Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Jafar Hassan, and visited the Baqaa Palestinian Refugee Camp.

The meeting with Jordan's Prime Minister Samir Rifai lasted about an hour. The Jordanian leader praised Japan's role in the peace process—especially the Corridor of Peace and Prosperity initiative, and celebrated the close relations that Jordan has traditionally enjoyed with Japan. Rifai added that Jordan was intent on implementing a number of mega-projects such as the Red-Dead Canal, a proposed railway project to link the Gulf region with Europe through Jordan and the kingdom’s nuclear power program. Takemasa responded that he prayed for the success of Jordanian economic reform plans and would strive to resolve the Palestinian issue.

It was the meeting with Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Jafar Hassan which attracted the most attention from the media. Hassan told reporters that Jordan and Japan were studying the possibility of cooperating on a number of development projects worth $104 million while noting that Japanese financial and technical assistance to the kingdom stood at $24.8 million last year. Another major topic was the issue of nuclear cooperation, with Hassan urging Japan to sign a more concrete nuclear agreement with Jordan.

At the Baqaa Refugee Camp, Takemasa visited one of the camp’s eight schools and met the four JICA volunteers working there. He also inspected the facilities of a medical clinic that had received some Japanese financial aid.

Michael Penn
APP, Nonresident Senior Fellow
Executive Director, Shingetsu Institute

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