Mon Jul 17, 5:56 AM ET
Iraq and the United States signed a commercial cooperation agreement Monday that officials hope will help this country move into a free market after decades of wars, sanctions and state control.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Iraqi Trade Minister Abed Falah al-Sudani attended the ceremony and told reporters that the Iraqi leadership will not tolerate widespread corruption.
"Concerning the agreement that we signed today, it is the result of long discussions and follows mutual agreements between Iraq and the United States," al-Sudani told reporters.
He said that the principles of the agreement are based on improving the Iraqi economy after it was destroyed by war.
"This agreement will be one of the important agreements that encourages the Iraqi economy to move from centralized economy to free economy," the Iraqi official said.
The economy of oil-rich Iraq was devastated by the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the 1991 Gulf war and 13 years of crippling international sanctions. The economy was state-controlled for decades.
"We will start a new chapter in the cooperation between the United States and Iraq," Gutierrez said. "This will entail cooperation in the economic field and promoting investments in key areas of the country in sharing technology and other forms of capacity building."
"It will be a unique opportunity to enable the Iraqi people to move from a centralized system of economic development to one where individuals can apply their skills and their talent and their energy to develop a better life for themselves, obviously for their families and for their country," he added.