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Wide-Ranging Avenues of Cooperation Explored

Wide-Ranging Avenues  of Cooperation ExploredWide-Ranging Avenues  of Cooperation Explored

The visiting Spanish delegation that arrived in Tehran late Sunday met with a number of top Iranian officials on Monday to discuss ways to expand mutual relations. They also attended a business conference with representatives of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture.

The 70-strong delegation is led by Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, Industry, Energy and Tourism Minister Jose Manuel Soria and Development Minister Ana Pastor for a three-day visit aimed at enhancing cooperation in various fields.

The Spanish Cabinet members on Monday met with President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Minister of Industries, Mining and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi and head of Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, Masoud Soltanifar.

Representatives from Spanish companies active in the fields of oil, gas, petrochemicals, railroads, airports, power plants, heavy industries, electronics, tourism and pharmaceuticals also held separate meetings with their Iranian counterparts to seek investment opportunities after the western sanctions over Iran’s nuclear energy program are lifted.

Infrastructure development, tourism and energy sectors are key areas where the Spanish have shown interest in investment and cooperation with Iran.

 Call for Long-Term Cooperation

Speaking at Iran-Spain Trade Conference on Monday, ICCIMA Chairman Mohsen Jalalpour called on Spanish officials to plan for long-term sustainable economic cooperation rather than seeking short-term benefits in the Iranian market.

Jalalpour referred to tourism sector, development of knowledge-based companies, environmental technologies, nanotechnology, water treatment, rail, road and air transport as suitable sectors for bilateral cooperation.

He also suggested joint ventures between Iranian and Spanish companies in food and pharmaceutical industries, noting that Iran has made significant achievements in these sectors over the past years.

  Developing SMEs

Developing the capacities of small- and medium-sized enterprises was another issue emphasized in the business conference.

Jalalpour suggested that the two countries share their expertise in this regard through exchange of business delegations and representatives from various SMEs.

Joaquim Montella, vice president of Spanish Confederation of Employers Organization, which represents two million companies and entrepreneurs from every economic sector in Spain, highlighted the investment opportunities in Iran, referring to the country as “the safest and most stable country in the region.”

 Cooperation in Tourism, Infrastructure

Cooperation in tourism-related projects was another key focus of the conference. Spanish Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism, Jose Manuel Soria underscored the Spanish companies’ vast experiences in the tourism sector and expressed hope for a stronger presence of Spanish investors in Iran’s tourism market after the sanctions are lifted.

Spanish Development Minister Ana Pastor said her country is willing to take part in development of transportation infrastructure in Iran, including construction of 1,000 kilometers of railroads per year, renovation of highways, expansion of ports and airports.

“Spain has 12,000 kilometers of highways and is ranked as the world’s third country in terms of seaport development and fifth in terms of rail network size,” she said.

She also announced plans to launch two direct flights between Tehran and Madrid, and Tehran and Barcelona in the near future.

Head of Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, Masoud Soltanifar, referred to the tourism sector as the most suitable area for cooperation between the two countries, observing that there still remain huge untapped potential in the sector.

“Iran attracted about 5 million international tourists in 2014, showing growth of 5% from 2013. As per the objectives outlined in the 2025 Vision Plan, Iran plans to build 300 hotels over the next decade, including 30 four- and five-star hotels per year,” said Soltanifar.

Infrastructure development, expansion of road, air and rail transport and construction of new hotels have been a top priority for the government of President Hassan Rouhani for attracting international tourists as part of a boarder plan to move away from oil-based economy.

In this regard, Soria and Soltanifar held a separate meeting on Monday to seek avenues for closer cooperation in the tourism sector.

The Spanish minister expressed interest in participating in international tourism exhibitions in Iran and called for facilitating the process of issuing visa for residents of both countries.

As part of this meeting, both parties agreed on reviewing the draft memorandum of understanding, prepared by ICHHTO and Spain’s Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism five years ago with focus on three key areas of transportation, communication and ease of travel.

 Transport  and Housing Opportunities

The Ministry of Roads and Urban Development has prepared a list of infrastructure projects awaiting foreign investments and is planning to introduce these projects in a conference titled “Investment Opportunities in Transport, Housing and Urban Development” on September 3-4 in Tehran.

In a meeting with Pastor on Monday, Akhoundi invited Spain to take part in the conference, noting that participants will be invited to take part in international tenders in Iran and come up with financing proposals for the projects.

Cooperation for development of high-speed trains for urban and suburban transport was another issue discussed in the meeting.

  Resuming Pre-Sanctions Ties

The Spanish ministers also met with President Hassan Rouhani on Monday and expressed interest on the part of Spanish companies to resume pre-sanctions activities in Iran.

Spanish companies were widely present in Iran’s oil and gas sector as well as other industries before they were forced to curtail their activities under pressure from the US, EU and UN Security Council to tighten sanctions against Iran at the beginning of 2012.

Garcia-Margallo said Spanish companies are willing to invest in production of steel and industrial parts in Iran and hoped that establishing a joint Iran-Spain commission will help identify further areas for cooperation between the two countries.

He also suggested that his country could “act as a channel for exporting Iran’s liquefied natural gas to Europe.”

President Rouhani welcomed the presence of Spanish companies and entrepreneurs in Iran after the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program, noting that there is huge potential in Iran in the areas of energy, oil and gas industries, universities, research centers and tourism.

Nematzadeh also met with the Spanish delegation on Monday and invited them to participate in long-term cooperation with Iranian firms in the areas of automotive, chemicals, petrochemicals, food industries, mining and mineral industries.

Iran exported about $89 million worth of commodities, including iron, saffron, grapes and carpets, to Spain during the first four months of the current Iranian year (March 21-July 22) and imported nearly $53 million worth of goods, including carbon electrodes, cranes, printing ink and graph paper, from the country during the period.

The recent conclusion of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the permanent members of UN Security Council plus Germany) has triggered a race among the Europeans for new business opportunities in Iran. Top officials and ministers from Germany, France, Italy, the UK and Austria have traveled to Tehran with executives of major companies over the past month.

Financialtribune.com