Europe bets to do business with Iran but fears persist

The European Union (EU) is institutionally committed to trade with Iran and the interest of the companies is undoubted, but the entrepreneurial journey in the Persian country is followed doing with lead feet.

Tehran, Nov 23 (EFE). - The European Union (EU) is institutionally committed to trade with Iran and the interest of companies is undoubted, but the entrepreneurial journey in the Persian country is still doing with feet of lead.

Contacts were restored after the signing of the nuclear agreement in 2015 between Iran and six major powers, when a transfer began continuous commercial missions to explore the business opportunities of a country burdened for years by the international embargo.

Two years later, the delegations follow coming to the country and some companies have settled and signed memoranda of understanding or contracts, but with precautions, mainly those with businesses in the US.

Marina Villén

Doubts have risen again since the US president, Donald Trump, threatened a little over a month ago to abandon the nuclear pact if it is not modified and order the Congress to decide whether to reimpose the sanctions lifted.

The EU, however, has given its firm support to the agreement and several of its leaders have made visits in November to Iran, including the Secretary General of the Community Diplomatic Service, Helga Schmid, and the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan.

Schmid advocated for greater cooperation with Iran, also on nuclear energy, and Hogan for "normalizing trade relations with Iran."

"We want to do business with Iran," said the commissioner, who led a high-level mission composed of more than 40 European companies, and revealed that bilateral trade reached this year 10,000 million euros.

However, European companies fear be penalized by the US sanctions that remain in force, despite the signing of the nuclear agreement, or by the new ones that Washington has imposed or plans to impose.

"difficulties" or the eventual withdrawal of the US from the nuclear pact is "something that is planning at all times", according to Joan Mir Piqueras, general director of the Spanish fruit and vegetable company Anecoop, who traveled with the European Commissioner to Iran.

"Of course there are fears, but at the moment there are no reprisals from the US In addition, we are talking about a hypothetical sanctions and now with all the support of the EU we feel safe, "he told Efe.

Piqueras, like other businessmen, assessed as positive the" decisive and firm commitment of the EU ", which is expected defend your companies in case the US takes drastic measures.

For the time being, the White House has ensured that it does not intend to block trade between the EU and Iran, although it has warned against doing business with companies linked to the Guardians of the Revolution, very present in the Iranian economy but sanctioned by the US for their "support to the terrorism. "

According to Iranian media, this week the US Treasury imposed sanctions against two Iranian companies for their alleged links with the Guardians, in a move which also included two German firms.

Many European companies fear investing in Iran because of these unilateral US sanctions, although several of the big ones, such as Airbus, Total and Siemens, have already signed millionaire contracts.

The agreement of Total, part of a consortium that will invest more than 4,200 million euros in the gas field of South Pars, remains in the air, since the French oil company has indicated that it should review it if the sanctions regime changes.

In the opinion of a representative of a European company based in Iran, which he preferred anonymity, most companies come with a "low profile", without advertising their activities or their trips to the Persian country.

There is a desire to "bet more" on the Iranian market but the "uncertainty" persists, explained this source to Efe, which pointed to an increase in commercial exchanges but few important contracts or large investments.

The main ones problems are the financing of the projects, since the Iranian government is not giving sovereign guarantees, as well as the reluctance of the big European banks to enter into relations with Iran for US sanctions.

European exports to Iran include pieces of machinery, transport equipment and pharmaceuticals, among others, while the sector of Hydrocarbons also have a lot of potential.

However, the stability and importance of doing business in the US continues to weigh more and, as the Iranian deputy minister Foreign, Abás Araqchí, "no European country will lose the US market because of its position in the Iranian market".