Domestic Economy

Swiss Delegation in Tehran to Scope Out New Trade Potential

Swiss Delegation in Tehran to Scope Out New Trade Potential Swiss Delegation in Tehran to Scope Out New Trade Potential

A high-ranking Swiss business delegation led by former ambassador to Iran, Livia Leu Agosti, is due to arrive in Tehran today. The trade delegation’s visit, which aims at exploring business opportunities in Iran, is the first such Swiss trip in the past decade, IRNA reported.

Leu Agosti, who was ambassador to Iran from 2009 to 2013, told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper that “although it was hard to estimate the potential for Swiss companies in Iran, it is a rich and large country with 80 million relatively well-off inhabitants.”

“We would like to find out how the Iranian government wants to proceed until negotiations are concluded, and after the sanctions are lifted,” Leu was quoted as saying.

  Propitious Time

A framework nuclear deal was announced by Iran and six world powers on April 2 in the Swiss city of Lausanne. A final agreement is to be implemented by June 30. Leu Agosti had said after the deal that this was a “very propitious” time to visit Iran.

Leu Agosti is currently a delegate for trade agreements at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and will travel in this capacity with Swiss business leaders to Iran.

She told the NZZ am Sonntag that Switzerland was well positioned for doing business with Iran, thanks to its good reputation and the appreciation of Swiss quality. She saw particular possibilities in the fields of infrastructure and the large consumer market, which could be of interest to the pharmaceutical and medical industries.

Apart from members of SECO and the Swiss Business Federation, company representatives from different business sectors including machinery, food, pharmaceuticals, processing and services are among the delegation team, Swissinfo news platform reported last week.

  Suspended Gas Deal

In 2007, Iran and Switzerland signed a major 25-year gas contract to export over 5 billion cubic meters of gas per year from the Persian Gulf reportedly valued at 18 billion euros. Starting with 1.5 billion cubic meters per year in 2010, the capacity was to increase to 4 billion cubic meters by 2012. The Swiss company, EGL announced the unilateral suspension of the gas contract with Iran in October 2010.

Secretary General of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, Hossein Noghrekar Shirazi in the meeting with head of Middle East and North Africa division of Switzerland federal department of foreign affairs, Wolfgang Amadeus Bruelhart in September last year said: “About 7 years ago, we had planned to transfer gas to Switzerland via Turkey but due to some problems posed by the Turkish government, the negotiations did not come to a conclusion. But now Iran is ready to start a new round of negotiations with Switzerland and reach a final agreement on oil, gas and petrochemical projects.”

“We hope that a delegation from Switzerland will arrive in Tehran to further develop economic relations. But first, a final agreement needs to be reached in Iran’s nuclear talks with the P5+1 [the five permanent members of UN Security Council plus Germany],” said Bruelhart, who headed a delegation to Tehran last September.

The Swiss Federal Council said in a statement in January 2014 that it had suspended part of its economic sanctions against Iran in accordance with the Geneva nuclear accords between Tehran and the six world powers but the trade barriers are still officially in place.

Trade between the two countries amounted to 640 million Swiss francs ($672 million) last year, with the balance heavily tipped in favor of Switzerland.