This article discusses the partial integration of companies from socialist Eastern Europe into the nascent economic globalisation in the late Cold War. By focusing on the industrial slaughterhouse designed and built in Baghdad by East German and Romanian companies (1974–81), it shows how they operated within and across the political economy of state socialism and the emerging, Western-dominated market of construction services. In Baghdad, East Germans and Romanians struggled with working across differing monetary regimes, inefficient corporate structures and the requirement to comply with Western standards and regulations. This article shows how they strived to bypass obstacles and to exploit opportunities stemming from their liminal and unequal position in Iraq. By zooming into architectural and engineering documentation, it argues that petrobarter agreements, or the exchange of crude oil for goods and services, shaped programmes, layouts, technologies and materialities of buildings constructed by Eastern Europeans in Iraq and the region.