Business And Markets

Swiss Deal With Iran via SHTA

A Swiss pharmaceutical company has completed the first transaction under a new humanitarian trade channel with Iran, the government in Bern said on Monday.
The Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) channel to bring food and medicine to Iran started trial operations in January, helping supply Swiss goods to the country without tripping over US sanctions.
“We would like to emphasize that the operationalization of the SHTA is progressing and that a number of companies have already been approved, more companies will follow. Further transactions should be carried out shortly,” the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said by email, Reuters reported. 
Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from the sanctions that Washington reimposed on Tehran after President Donald Trump walked away from a 2015 international deal over Iran’s nuclear program.
But the US measures targeting everything from oil sales to shipping and financial activities have deterred several foreign banks from doing business with the Islamic Republic - including humanitarian deals.
SECO did not identify the Swiss drugmaker or give a value for the shipment, which it said involved a cancer drug used to treat iron overload caused by repeated blood transfusions.
The pilot deal in January shipped to Iran cancer drugs and drugs required for organ transplants worth 2.3 million euros ($2.7 million). Geneva-based bank BCP and drugmaker Novartis took part in the pilot deal.
It is said that except for the BCP, two Iranian banks are also taking part in the plan, namely Saman Bank and Middle East Bank.


Virus Blamed

Nor more transactions were carried out via SHTA since then. Earlier in the month, the foreign ministry in Bern blamed the delays on the coronavirus pandemic. This was conveyed in response to an email sent by asking whether or not the channel is still operational. 
“Unfortunately there have been delays due to Covid-19…Interested companies, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector, were faced with other priorities overnight. However, we would also like to emphasize that a number of companies have already been approved and that first transactions should be carried out shortly”
The channel came into operation after the US Treasury Department granted waivers for using a portion of the Central Bank of Iran’s overseas resources to supply basic goods and pharmaceuticals to Iran. 
“While the US maintains broad exceptions and authorizations for the conduct of humanitarian trade with Iran, SHTA presents a voluntary option for facilitating payment for exports of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, and medical devices to Iran in a manner that ensures the upmost transparency,” the treasury department said in a statement. 

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