Opportunities in Iraq

Opportunities in Iraq

The U.S. Commerce Department has a tradition of serving the needs of U.S. industry, particularly small and medium-sized businesses. One of the department's goals is to fulfill the administration's commitment to helping businesses succeed through the expansion of international trade. Providing timely information is key. This is why the Commerce Department has taken such an active role in informing U.S. businesses of opportunities that coincide with current events such as the rebuilding of Iraq and diversification of the energy supply of the United States.

Once major combat ended in Iraq, U.S. companies began inquiring about involvement in the rebuilding efforts. Commerce Secretary Don Evans immediately created the Iraq Reconstruction Task Force to respond to the needs of the business community. He tapped Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary Kevin Murphy to head the task force.

Murphy said the task force "serves as a clearinghouse that provides U.S. businesses with timely information and advice on Iraq reconstruction efforts. It illustrates the Bush administration's commitment to opening the lines of communication with businesses that want to participate in the rebuilding of Iraq."

As chair of the task force, Murphy leads a team of industry and trade experts within the International Trade Administration at the Commerce Department. They provide information to U.S. companies on existing and potential commercial opportunities in Iraq, as well as guidance on how they can participate in various projects.

The task force has also established a Web site (www.export.gov/iraq) that is updated regularly to provide the latest information on doing business in Iraq. The Web site includes the Business Guide for Iraq, which provides valuable information on reconstruction priorities, key industry sectors, potential obstacles to doing business in Iraq, and more. The Iraq Reconstruction Task Force also operates a hotline (866-352-IRAQ) for businesses seeking additional information and guidance.

"I make it a point to visit the Iraq Reconstruction Web site at least three days a week. The site is constantly updated to help businesses such as mine meet companies in Iraq," said Bill Houlehan, chief executive of O'Shea Ltd., a Kansas City-based closeout wholesaler. "I have had the opportunity to speak with some great people at the Commerce Department who have been extremely helpful and professional in guiding me to opportunities that I would not have reached on my own."

Murphy's responsibilities with the Iraq Reconstruction Task Force are part of his duties in overseeing the Commerce Department's Office of Energy, the Environment, and Materials.

These responsibilities have also led to his involvement in numerous energy-related programs and initiatives.

Working closely with officials at the U.S. Department of Energy, Murphy has been instrumental in organizing commercial energy summits between Russia and the U.S. For the past two years, these summits have brought together senior-level government officials and private-sector participants from both countries to discuss policy issues and new energy opportunities in Russia and the U.S. The first summit was held last year in Houston. The second recently took place in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Secretary Evans created the energy summit initiative to achieve the goals of the U.S.-Russia Commercial Energy Dialogue, announced by President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in May 2002. The aim is to advance global energy security, enhance opportunities for partnerships between U.S. and Russian energy companies, and improve the energy trade and investment climate between the two countries.

The Department of Commerce also works to help businesses take advantage of commercial energy opportunities in other regions of the world. For example, last May at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, the department hosted briefing sessions to inform U.S. companies of oil and gas sector opportunities in the U.K., Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. Energy ministers and senior energy executives participated in panels at the conference.

Similar efforts are taking place in China, Vietnam, Thailand and parts of Africa. In fact, Murphy led an electric power trade mission in July to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, as well as Bangkok, Thailand. Trade missions are excellent ways for businesses to learn about opportunities and to meet key decision-makers.

For further information, call the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Energy, the Environment, and Materials, at (202) 482-0614.

Paul H. Dickerson is an attorney with Haynes and Boone LLP in Houston.

He can be contacted at (713) 547-2235, or via e-mail at paul.dickerson@haynesboone.com.