Economy, Domestic Economy

Tehran, Vienna Sign Deals Worth $89m

Tehran, Vienna Sign Deals Worth $89m
Tehran, Vienna Sign Deals Worth $89m

Austrian companies signed 15 contracts and memoranda of understanding with their Iranian counterparts on Tuesday, becoming the first western firms to put down concrete stakes in the country since a landmark nuclear deal was reached with world powers in July.

Austrian businesses in wide-ranging sectors, including automotive parts, information technology and engineering, sealed agreements worth 80 million euros ($89 million) at a forum organized by Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture at Iran International Conference Center in Tehran, IRNA reported.

It was part of a three-day visit by Austrian President Heinz Fischer who arrived in Tehran on Monday accompanied by Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mittelehner, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz and a 240-member economic, cultural and academic delegation for talks on enhancement of mutual cooperation.

President of Austrian Chamber of Commerce Christophe Leitl said the 15 deals would comply with existing US and European Union sanctions.

He predicted a increase in the number of such agreements between the two countries in the near future as both countries are working to boost economic relations.

"Austria has not set any priorities for participating in Iran's various economic sectors, believing it is the Iranian government and private sector that should decide on this matter," he said.

Speaking at the economic forum, ICCIMA head, Mohsen Jalalpour, highlighted the opportunities for Austrian firms in Iran, noting that Iran is a country of 80 million, having access to a market of 300 million in the region.

He said partnership with Iranian firms would prove to be "economically viable" for Austrian companies, observing that they can reach markers in Central Asia, Caucasus region and Persian Gulf countries via Iran.

"Austria welcomes multifaceted relations with Iran as a country with old history and rich culture," said President Fischer at the forum.

Fischer, the first European head of state to visit Iran since 2004, also held talks with the Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and his counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday and they agreed to increase political and economic cooperation.

> Drafting 5-Year Roadmap

Also present at the forum, Austria's Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy Reinhold Mitterlehner said he was in talks with Tehran for drafting a five-year roadmap that covers areas such as energy, industries, transportation, science and culture.

Tehran has been bustling with western business delegations since the diplomatic breakthrough with the P5+1 countries (the permanent members of UN Security Council plus Germany) in Vienna, based on which Tehran agreed to limitations on its nuclear program in exchange for an end to sanctions.

Still, most western firms have said they will wait until the nuclear agreement is implemented on the ground and sanctions are removed, which is widely expected to happen in 2016, before they will make any firm business commitments in the country.

Meanwhile, the Iranian Petroleum University of Technology and Austrian Montan University signed a cooperation agreement on Tuesday with the aim of strengthening scientific and engineering ties.

"Austrian firms are deeply interested in cooperation with Iranian companies in oil, gas and petrochemical sectors," said deputy director general of Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, Karl Hartleb.

> Bilateral Trade Target

Trade between Iran and Austria currently stands at about $300 million per year, but both countries are hoping to increase this figure in the coming years.

In a meeting with Austrian Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Reinhold Mittelehner on Wednesday, Iran's Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayyebnia expressed hope for a boost in bilateral trade to $1 billion in the coming years.

Tayyebnia said both parties have arrived at agreements to sign a number of MoUs in the future for removal of double taxation and investments by Austrian companies.

Mittelehner said Austrian firms are ready to invest in various sectors in Iran, including steel and transportation.

“These activities are pending the removal of banking restrictions on Iran and the Iranian bank's ability to rejoin the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as the SWIFT system,” he said.