Economy, Business And Markets

Australian Businesses Held Back Fearing US Backlash

Australian Businesses Held Back Fearing US BacklashAustralian Businesses Held Back Fearing US Backlash

An Australian businessman has told the  national public broadcaster ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) he would like to trade with Iran, but his financial institution said it wanted no part in his trade, fearing a backlash from the US.

Australia has dropped trade sanctions against Iran, but in the United States they remain in place.

Sydney-based exporter and importer Christopher Cox said he took his business to the ANZ bank because of its far-reaching international branch network, compared with other local banks.

But ANZ said it would not provide the channel needed to send and receive between Australia and Iran, leaving Cox extremely frustrated, as all the other necessary financial and business infrastructure to do business abroad are in place.

“We just can’t do business,” Cox said. “We have to use money exchanges in Melbourne.”

In a statement provided to the ABC in regards to the matter, ANZ said: “While there has been a lifting of some sanctions on Iran by Australian authorities, as an international bank we continue to comply with the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) which bans transactions to and from Iran.”

Cox said he had no idea who to turn to now. “I don’t know who makes the decisions,” he said.

“Can you force a bank to do business? I really don’t know, but it is costing the Australian government money.”

 Missing Out on “Several-Billion-Dollar” Opportunity

Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, who was born in Iran, said the longer the Australian government took to help facilitate money flows between the two countries, the more money Australia would lose in trade opportunities.

“I know reports talking about a several billion dollar export opportunity that is presented by a place like Iran,” Dastyari said.

He laid the blame squarely at the feet of the federal government.

“[The federal government] needs to create better policy settings to work better at a central level with American security agencies to create the opportunities for these Australian businesses and for these Australian banks.”

But Minister for Trade Steven Ciobo defended the Australian financial sector, describing it as being in the “post-sanctions period”.

“That means there are a number of issues that need to be worked through,” Ciobo said. “Of course there are ongoing issues with respect to finance and that will change in time.

“As the global economy continues to engage again with Iran we’ll see those kinds of barriers fall away.”

On Senator Dastyari’s claims of “several billion dollar” export opportunities Ciobo said: “It sounds like the typical hot air we hear by the Australian Labor Party.”

Nonetheless Cox claimed Australia was indeed missing out in terms of trade deals with Iran.

“Most countries are in there doing business — German firms, South Korean firms, Indian, Chinese — everyone’s in there doing business, except Australia,” Cox said.

Ciobo said he may travel to Iran, together with a trade delegation, later this year to look at the potential that exists for trade now that sanctions have been lifted.

“Obviously Australia doesn’t operate a command and control economy, we don’t dictate to banks.” Ciobo said.

“The Australian government, however, is very focused on building trade and export opportunities with Iran.”

According to the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, Iran exported $30.3 million worth of goods to Australia during the last Iranian year that ended in March, which indicates a 16% rise compared to the year before. Iran’s imports stood at $40 million to register a %75 decline.

Latest data on bilateral trade is for the first four months of the current Iranian year (March 20-July 21), during which period Iran exported more than 12,000 tons of non-oil goods valued at $20 million to Australia – a 184% rise, and imported more than 4,100 tons of goods worth $9.7 million – a 111% rise year-on-year. Exports mainly included copper, paraffin wax, stone, carpet, dates, pistachios, raisin, saffron, fruit and vegetable. Pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, ceramic products, wood, machinery and paper were the major  imports.