By Mick Duncan
Between 26-28 April, a business conference entitled "Iraq Procurement 2004: Meet the Buyers" - sponsored by Shell, ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and Raytheon - will be taking place in central London. In attendance will be Iraqi ministers, a representative of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and Tony Blair's Special Representative on Trade and Reconstruction, Brian Wilson.
Over 300 international corporate delegates are expected to attend looking to grab a share of the estimated $100bn re-building budget. There's a lot of money to be made. Halliburton, for example, received $2 billion in contracts in 2003.
And the US government has done its best to ensure favourable conditions. In September 2003 Paul Bremer enacted Order 39. It announced that 200 Iraqi state companies would be privatised; decreed that foreign firms can retain 100% ownership of Iraqi banks, mines and factories; and allowed these firms to move 100% of their profits out of Iraq. The Economist declared the new rules a "capitalist dream".
Sessions at Iraq Procurement will cover financial issues and risks, construction, agriculture, electricity, oil and gas, communications and cultural strategies. There will also be a forum for participating in the tendering process.
The case for trade union rights for the workers whom these corporations hope to exploit must be heard.
A number of campaigning groups have already expressed an interest in organising some form of action or protest during this event. An organising meeting has been called for 7.30pm on Thursday 15 April at 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 (Tube: King's Cross).