In the sphere of international economic law, economies in transition often have similar experiences in adjusting their economies and domestic legal regimes to align themselves with their international obligations under WTO law. This is so despite widely differing geographical location and cultural make up. “The experiences of South Africa in the latter 1990’s have a singularly uncanny resonance with the current experience of the new ‘nation builders’ in Iraq in establishing a legal framework that encourages trade and development” said Hilton Zunckel on interviewed on United States National Public Radio from Amman, Jordan recently.
Hilton provided expertise as part of a capacity building initiative in support of the Iraqi government in their efforts to accede to the WTO. The programme was run by Izdihar, a private sector growth and employment generation project located in Baghdad, and supported by the US government. Hilton Zunckel spent a week with a group of Iraqi trade and agriculture officials sharing the South African experiences and advising on WTO law. Hilton also collaborated with the Amman based law firms Tabaa & Partners and Zaru Associates as part of the initiative.
Iraq has undergone a difficult period of both oppression and upheaval over the past three decades. Ravaged by wars and controlled under a repressive regime, the country’s economy and infrastructure have languished and fallen into disrepair. The prior regime’s policies seriously weakened Iraq’s international trade relations and repressed legitimate forms of international exchange of goods and services. International sanctions exacerbated the regime’s repression of legitimate economic activity.
Since the fall of the former regime in 2003, Iraq has embarked on a new path for economic growth. Current laws, regulations and policies have begun the process of rebuilding Iraq’s vibrant and ancient trading culture. Iraq is seeking to be an open and competitive marketplace driven by the private sector with a strong commitment to the benefits of balanced international trade. International trade will be one of the key drivers of the development and growth of a modern Iraq; a lesson clearly applied in the South African context over past decade.