Builders ‘must have level playing field’

BRITISH companies must have a “level playing field” to bid for contracts for rebuilding Iraq once the war is over, British Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said yesterday.

A new Iraqi government backed by the United Nations was “essential” for the country’s post-war economy as well as providing aid, she said.

Ms Hewitt was speaking after British construction companies reportedly voiced concerns that they might not get a fair chance to win contracts for rebuilding Iraq alongside American firms. Ms Hewitt stressed to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme that Britain was not involved in the war for “commercial gain.” She continued: “there is a recognition in America that British companies have a real expertise to offer here. The real issue is how we redevelop the Iraqi economy for the benefit of the Iraqi people after decades of damage that has been done by Saddam Hussein’s regime.”

She said the American government and companies would want to work with Britain’s best companies to help rebuild Iraq. “Once we move into a UN mandate for a civilian-led administration, then I hope we will all want to see a level playing field in which the best companies, and I am quite confident those will include a number of British companies, are all in there working with Iraqi companies and above all with the Iraqi people to ensure that their economy can finally get the investment and development it needs.”

Ms Hewitt continued: “United Nations involvement will be essential, not only for the very urgent task of humanitarian aid, but also to ensure for instance that the international financial institutions can come in and help to support and provide the investment for the redevelopment of the Iraqi economy.” Earlier, Alan Larson, US under-secretary for economic affairs, told PM he thought European companies would have just as much of a chance to win contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq as American firms.

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