The Iraqi Parliament recently ratified Iraq’s accession to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the “New York Convention”). On 4 March 2020, the Iraqi Parliament passed the Law on the Accession of the Republic of Iraq to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the “Accession Law”), which implements the Iraqi Council of Ministers Decree of 2018. The Accession Law will come into force once it is published in the Official Gazette of Iraq.
Notably, like several other state parties, Iraq has formulated a reservation with regards to the retroactive application of the New York Convention, so it will apply only to arbitration agreements entered into or arbitral awards made after the Accession Law comes into force. Iraq has also invoked the reciprocity reservation (awards will only be enforced from jurisdictions that permit the enforcement of arbitral awards from Iraq) and commercial reservation (the award will only apply to arbitral awards arising out of commercial contracts).
With this ratification, Iraq is set to become the 169th state party to the New York Convention leaving Libya and Yemen as the only remaining holdouts in the MENA region. The ratification also comes on the heels of several other accessions to the New York Convention around the globe (and especially in sub-Saharan Africa) in the last few months, including by Belize, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Sierra Leone.
While it remains to be seen how the Iraqi courts will apply the principles of the New York Convention in practice, Iraq’s accession to this instrument will undoubtedly facilitate the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards in Iraq and help foster confidence in trade and investment.
It is expected to give greater protection to international companies doing business and investing in Iraq.