Iraq wants China to be ‘major participant’ in project linking West Asia to Europe
The Cradle, June 3, 2023 —
Baghdad’s recently announced $17bn transport project seeks to transform Iraq’s economy after decades of war and occupation.
Iraqi Transport Minister Razzaq al-Saadawi says he expects China to be a major participant in a $17 billion infrastructure project that seeks to link West Asia and Europe and make Iraq a regional transportation hub.
“The Iraqi government welcomes China’s participation in the Development Road project, whether in implementation or investment,” Saadawi said in a statement after meeting Chinese Ambassador Cui Wei on 31 May.
“Our government welcomes the participation of Beijing in the Development Road project, and the door is open to all countries to take part, first and foremost China,” the Iraqi official stressed, adding that the Chinese ambassador had shown “clear interest in knowing many of the details and components.”
On Thursday, Wei met Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, telling him that the “Development Road project is very important to Iraq, it will be a path for peace and prosperity in the region and will be complementary to Belt and Road initiative.”
The Development Road project, linking the under-construction Al-Faw port on the Gulf coast to Iraq’s northern border with Turkiye, is intended to transform Iraq’s economy after decades of war and crisis.
It involves the construction of 1,200km of railway lines and a new motorway that will reduce transport costs and transit times between the two continents.
Sudani announced the project on 27 May during a conference with transport ministry representatives from Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkiye, and the UAE.
“We see this project as a pillar of a sustainable non-oil economy, a link that serves Iraq’s neighbors and the region, and a contribution to economic integration efforts,” the Iraqi premier said.
Following his meeting with the Chinese ambassador this week, Saadawi hinted that a second conference on the project would be held to welcome China’s involvement but did not give a date.
China is one of the biggest buyers of Iraq’s oil and one of its main trading partners. Trade between the two nations reached $53.37 billion last year, an increase of 43 percent from 2021.
Iraq was the largest beneficiary in West Asia of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2021, receiving more than $10.5 billion in investment.
Earlier this year, the Iraqi central bank announced it would allow trade from China to be settled directly in yuan instead of the US dollar.