Adams said that a relaxation of federal rules governing the award of contracts in the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Iraq reconstruction programme allowed foreign firms to win up to 50 per cent of the value of spending through subcontracts. ‘If British firms won 15-20 per cent, we would be reasonably satisfied,’ he said. The USAID has announced plans to spend about $900 million in emergency relief and reconstruction work. Normally, USAID contracts and subcontracts are awarded to American firms, but a change in policy to allow foreign firms to work on subcontracts was approved in January 2003.

Adams complimented the UK government for lobbying on behalf of UK companies in the reconstruction programme. ‘But we are not entirely satisfied,’ he said. ‘We are continuing to tell the UK government that there should be more activity to show that British companies can help in reconstruction.’

Adams also called for USAID and other American government agencies financing reconstruction contracts to avoid using exclusively US standards. ‘The use of US standards and specifications might rule out British firms, at the working level, from being selected for particular US sub-contracts.’

Adams said the BCCB would like the UK government to direct British bilateral funding work to the principal members of the US-led coalition. ‘Furthermore, funds should be made available as a grant or loan for specific projects which can be carried out by British firms for the long-term benefit of the Iraqi people,’ he said.

The USAID has announced plans to award a total of eight contracts in the Iraq relief and reconstruction programme. A total of 75 companies have registered interest in working in Iraq with the BCCB.