Europe Says US Regulations Keeping It from Trade with Iran
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – With the completion of the nuclear deal with Iran and the opening of its market, European businesses expected a trade bonanza, but the US restrictions are now preventing them from expanding their trade ties with Iran, which is a lucrative market for the EU.
Three months after the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions against Iran as per the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers (known as the JCPOA), there is growing frustration among European politicians, diplomats and businesspeople over the inability to complete dozens of energy, aviation and construction deals with Iran.
The main obstacle, the Europeans say, is their ally, the United States. Wary of running afoul of new sanctions imposed by Washington over Iran’s missile program and accusations that Iran sponsors terrorism, European banks are refusing to finance any of the deals, effectively perpetuating Iran’s isolation from the global financial system.
Europeans also point to new American visa regulations that make it more difficult for them to enter the United States if they have traveled to Iran. Those financial and travel restrictions, they say, make it nearly impossible to reach agreements with their Iranian counterparts, the New York Times reported.
The hurdles set up by the United States, Europeans say, are also infuriating Iranian officials and undermining what they understood to be one of the main goals of the nuclear deal, which was to reopen the doors of the Iranian market to the world.
“Europe is being taken hostage by American policy,” said Marietje Schaake, the vice president of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with the United States. “We negotiated the nuclear deal together, but now the US is obstructing its execution.”
During a recent meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said there had been “no tangible results” from the nuclear agreement.
“Some European governments and companies have been visiting Iran and are in talks (with Iran), but the outcome of these negotiations has not yet been tangible,” the Leader said at the time.
He said some sides blame the US for the lack of tangible results, adding the assessment seems to be acceptable given Americans’ track record and behavior.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who negotiated the nuclear deal, said this week that Iran was not seeking access to the United States financial system but expected Washington not to hinder Iran's cooperation with European banks.
“What we asked was to implement the nuclear deal, which requires the United States to allow European financial institutions to have peace of mind for dealing with Iran,” he told The New York Times editorial board on Wednesday.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, flew to Tehran last week to try to convince Iranian officials that the bloc is doing all it can to “reassure” major European financial institutions that it is safe to work with Iran.
The United States first imposed sanctions against Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis, focusing over the years primarily on disrupting its ability to connect to international financing networks. As a result, no foreign credit or debit cards work in Iran, forcing visitors to carry large amounts of cash. Selected European banks were once allowed by the US Treasury Department to use dollars in their dealings with Iran. That ended with the nuclear sanctions.
Europe never imposed any trade restrictions on Iran. Until 2006, Germany was its biggest trading partner, and there were dozens of flights between Europe and Iran. Iranian oil was refined in the Dutch port of Rotterdam. The European oil giants Royal Dutch Shell and Total were engaged in huge oil projects.
When the European Union joined the American effort to put Iran under pressure over its nuclear program, the bloc’s main action was to impose a boycott on Iranian crude. European banks, oil companies and producers subsequently abandoned the country after increasingly tough sanctions imposed by the US President Barack Obama’s administration.
Despite the obstacles, European officials say they are determined to clear a path for restored commercial relations. “We used to be Iran’s first partner in the field of economy, trade, investment,” Mogherini told the Tasnim News Agency on Tuesday. “We want to return to those days.”