AL QA’IM, Iraq --
Loads of fresh goods appear to overwhelm the aged vehicles that carry them and can be seen more and more along the Iraqi-Syrian border. Fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk and endless other goods seem ready to outwardly burst from inside over-packed vans that seemingly could keel over from the highly-stacked roofs.
It has been two months since the reopening of the renovated port-of-entry facility at the Iraqi-Syrian border in Husaybah, Iraq, and the region is beginning to prosper from the increased trade.
Recently, Mayor Farhan Tekan Farchan, the regional mayor of Al Qa’im, met with city councilmen and coalition forces to discuss the next step.
With the committed backing of the government of Iraq, the development of a free-trade zone with neighboring Syria seems the next stride to ensure thriving commerce for the region, as well as the rest of Iraq.
“The idea is to provide a place where goods could be imported and sold tax/tariff free,” said 1st Lt. Colin Ricks, a team leader with the Civil Affairs Team from 5th Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, of Task Force 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5. “It will hopefully bring lower priced goods that would otherwise not be available to the people.”
Syrian officials say they recently completed a 2.5 million square meter free-trade zone facility on their side of the border.
In order to handle trade increases, Iraqi officials are deliberating on a location to build their own extensive free-trade zone facility.
“The location is still up in the air,” Ricks said. “Originally the mayor wanted to put it right next to the port-of-entry. The governor wanted to move it east, just south of Sadah. The area they want to put it in is an empty field. All of the infrastructure still needs to be built.”
Iraq is currently planning to bolster trade with Egypt and Iran through new facilities and trade agreements. Several customs barriers have been burdening Iraq’s economy since several U.N. sanctions were imposed after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
According to World Trade Magazine, Egypt is Iraq's current leading supplier following the U.N.’s decision in 1996 to allow Iraq to sell oil for humanitarian goods.
Increased stability and progress within the government is permitting Iraq to again mend bonds with the Arab world.
An Iraqi-Syrian free trade zone will be another piece in the puzzle toward over-all economic stability and a return to normalcy for Iraq.