Iraq turns to China to boost economy
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi wrapped up a 5-day visit to China meant to boost Iraq’s struggling economy, with an announcement that Iraq would join China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“Iraq has gone through war and civil strife and is grateful to China for its valuable support,” Abdul-Mahdi said September 23, in comments broadcast by state media outlet China Central Television.
“Iraq is willing to work together in the One Belt, One Road framework,” Abdul-Mahdi said after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Xi said that the two countries would cooperate on oil and infrastructure projects.” China would like, from a new starting point together with Iraq, to push forward the China-Iraq strategic partnership,” said Xi.
Abdul-Mahdi also met with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang.
“Li said Shanghai is willing to strengthen cooperation with Iraq in various fields, while supporting local enterprises to invest in Iraq and make contributions to the welfare of peoples of the two nations,” reported the Chinese website Shine.cn.
Trade last year between China and Iraq totalled more than $30 billion, Xinhua reported. Beijing is Baghdad’s biggest trade partner, while Iraq is China’s second biggest oil supplier.
The Belt and Road Initiative is a massive global network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks spanning Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe, which will see trillions invested in new infrastructure.
It has faced criticism for saddling poor nations with crippling debt and has been eyed with suspicion by Washington, which sees it as an attempt by China to increase its influence in the region.
Abdul-Mahdi said his delegation’s visit to China “constitutes a new start for Iraq in all economic and security fields,” a statement by the Iraqi prime minister’s office said. “We want China to be a partner in building Iraq’s infrastructure.”
The two countries signed eight agreements on finance and trade, reconstruction, defence and security, education and culture as well as diplomatic missions, another statement from Abdul-Mahdi’s office stated.
Iraqi media outlets reported the deals include work on Iraq’s electricity and manufacturing, as well as building a Chinese library in the University of Baghdad.
During the visit, Abdul-Mahdi and Chinese leaders addressed the tensions between the United States and Iran.
“The current situation in the Middle East and Gulf region is complicated and sensitive, Xi said, calling on relevant sides to keep calm, exercise restraint and solve differences and disputes through dialogue, negotiation and other peaceful means to jointly safeguard regional peace and stability,” reported Xinhua. “China will maintain communications with Iraq and other parties on the situation,” the president said.
Abdul-Mahdi appeared to agree.
“On the regional situation, Abdul-Mahdi said Iraq is committed to easing tensions and avoiding war. Iraq will enhance communication and coordination with China in this regard,” Xinhua reported.