In terms of the US Chamber’s Middle East activities, where does the Kurdistan Region and AmCham-Kurdistan fit? For many years, we have been focused on efforts to deepen and expand the commercial relationship between the United States and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. We know that there are opportunities for American companies across all sectors and that the Kurdistan Region very much welcomes American investment, expertise and quality products and services. Our efforts have included bringing U.S. business to the Kurdistan Region to meet with government officials and business leaders in order to see and learn about the opportunities first-hand to providing a platform to KRG officials in Washington, D.C. to educate companies and raise awareness. The new AmCham in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq plays an important role in bridging the American business community with the Kurdistan Region.

Is there any misconception among the US business community regarding the security situation in Kurdistan? It is certainly one of the key challenges facing us. It is important to keep in mind just how large the US business community is. The US Chamber of Commerce represents over three million American companies through our federation. This is a very diverse group and some are more aware of the situation in the Middle East, and Kurdistan specifically, than others. The reality is that what many people know of the Middle East comes from television and newspapers stories that describe a region in flames and under the constant threat of ISIS. A very important responsibility of business organizations like the US Chamber and AmCham is to educate the business community on how the Kurdistan Region is distinct and that it is stable and quite different in terms of the security situation from Syria and other parts of Iraq. When people ask me about the security situation, I often reply that I feel much safer walking the streets of Erbil than I do certain parts of Washington, D.C. at night.

What role would you say American businesses could play in furthering the US-Kurdistan Region bilateral ties? It really boils down to education and raising awareness. This is absolutely critical. We know that the door to the Kurdistan Region is wide open. We need to do what we can to encourage American companies to push on that open door because we know that our international competitors are.