Iraq’s decision not to reciprocate for US President Donald Trump’s visa ban on citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries offers some reassurance for US oil companies working in OPEC’s second-biggest crude producer.
US companies working in Iraq include Exxon Mobil Corp. and oil-service providers Schlumberger Ltd., Halliburton Co. and Baker Hughes Inc. Most expatriates in Iraq work on rotation, leaving and returning to the country every few weeks, a routine that any entry ban would have disrupted.
“If the policy was reciprocated, it could have been catastrophic for both countries,” Luay Al Khatteeb, a fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, said by phone from London. “It would have affected production.” Iraq pumped 4.61 million barrels a day in December, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Trump issued the executive order on Jan. 27, in the name of fighting terrorism. Iraqi lawmakers on Monday condemned the move, noting that Iraqi forces are on the front line in the battle against IS, and urged their government to reciprocate. Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi declined to issue a ban.
“We won’t apply the same rules,” the prime minister said. “Fighting terror is a strategic issue for us.” Exxon, Baker Hughes and Halliburton declined to comment on the Iraqi prime minister’s decision, while representatives for Schlumberger didn’t immediately respond when asked for comment. Crude oil prices have climbed about 2 percent this week after the ban, with Brent rallying
2.2 percent on Wednesday as evidence mounted that producers are making promised output cuts to curb a global glut.
Trump’s visa ban probably won’t have a direct impact on the companies’ operations in Iraq, as many send their Iraqi staff to other places in the Middle East for training and meetings rather than to the US, said Robin Mills, chief executive officer of consultant Qamar Energy in Dubai. “It wasn’t easy for Iraqis to get visas before anyway,” he said.