Cablegate: Prt Babil: Expo '09: Babil Businesses Strut Their

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R 280441Z JAN 10



E.O. 12958: N/A

BAGHDAD 00000213 001.2 OF 002

1. (U) This is a Babil PRT reporting cable.

- - - -
2. (U) From December 8 to 11, the Babil Tourism Business
Group hosted &Expo8; a combination trade fair, tourism
conference and investment promotion meeting at the Babylon
Conference Center. The event, the first of its kind in many
years, attracted some 500 visitors including the Governor and
most members of the Provincial Council and the Investment
Commission. The 46 exhibitors, from a freelance photographer
to the Lebanese Tourism Board to a wholesale grocer, were
uniformly optimistic about the prospects for Babil,s
economy, the tourism sector, and their own businesses.
Investor interest was muted ) 15 Iranian companies came for
discussions on the first day, but did not attend the
conference and some did not even tour the exhibition
(septel). The PRT contributed $25,000 to the conference.
Trade Fair
- - - - - -
3. (SBU) For the trade fair, the 46 exhibitors (one from
Lebanon, some 10 from Baghdad, the rest from Babil), many
with no connection to tourism, took advantage of the
opportunity presented by Hillah,s first &Expo8 to display
a wide variety of wares. The Babylon Conference Center, a
secure facility on the Hillah River a few hundred yards from
ancient Babylon, housed the event. The slightly amateurish
organization did nothing to dampen the exuberance of most
participants. Several reported concluding sale or
representation agreements.
- - - - - -
4. (U) The conference consisted of presentations and
speeches by the Governor, PRT Team Leader and tourism
advisor, and investment commission. The upbeat theme was
that the region is ready to cash in on a growing tourism.
There is increasing awareness that Babil should be able to
capitalize on the large numbers of pilgrims (probably at
least 10 million), many of whom pass through Hillah on their
way, often by foot or on their knees, to the Shi'a shrines of
Karbala and Najaf. This multitude is now largely served by
Iranian travel agencies, and Iranian managed hotels and other
tourist facilities in Iraq.
Investment Meetings
- - - - - - - - - -
5. (SBU) The investment promotion portion apparently
attracted only 15 private Iranian potential investors,
invited by the organizer on instructions from PC members
without the knowledge of the PRT. These were given VIP
treatment by conference organizers on the guarantee of the
PC. When the PC failed to settle the tab, the Iranian group
left without paying their bill for ID 12 million
(approximately USD 10,400). More details about the Iranian
companies and their presence at the conference will be
reported septel.
The Exhibitors
- - - - - - - -
6. (U) The PRT's grantee, the Babylon Center for Business
Community Development filled the large tent completely
applying discriminatory pricing. The Center based their fee
on ability and willingness to pay, proximity to Hillah, and
other obscure criteria. As a result, a booth went for
between nothing and $20,000 (Zain).
7. (U) The booths in the main tent were extremely varied.
Although there were numerous interesting highlights, a few
warrant special mention. For example, the Ministry of
Agriculture advertised land it has available for agribusiness
investors. There was also a British-educated maker of
plastic spacers for reinforced concrete who reported that he
reopened a few months ago after closing down in 2004. He
credited the government's relaxation of its restrictions on
hiring foreigners. He explained that Iraqis constantly
&disappear,8 so he hired four Bangladeshis in management
Q&disappear,8 so he hired four Bangladeshis in management
positions. He is growing his business and plans to replace
his 30-year old British injection machines &after the
8. (U) Three parastatals exhibited: the Hillah Textile
Company, the State Company for Automobile Manufacture, and
the Handmade Carpet Company). They were among those that the
Center did not charge for their booths. A Baghdad-based food
importer (Kellogg,s Corn Flakes, German honey) found a local
distributor and sold him his entire display inventory. The
display was enough to comfortably fill a medium-sized store.
Nunu Dairy's exhibitor, based in North Babil, said people
were amazed that his professionally packaged yoghurt, cheese,
and cream were actually made in Iraq. He also found new
Conclusion & Comment:
- - - - - - - - - - -
9. (SBU) While some of the enthusiasm must be attributed to
Hillah,s long period of isolation, it was also a genuine

BAGHDAD 00000213 002.2 OF 002

reflection of a brimming optimism for the economy in general
and tourism in particular. Tourism especially is a sector
that embodies Iraqi aspirations to rejoin the world. The
investor portion may have been a failure. The comments from
many Iraqis were negative.

© Scoop Media

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