Iran-Saudi Trade in Retrospect
Economy, Domestic Economy

Iran-Saudi Trade in Retrospect

Iran banned all imports from Saudi Arabia in a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Hassan Rouhani last week, extending the embargo to free trade and special economic zones as well.
The Saudi execution of top Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, an opponent of the ruling dynasty who demanded greater rights for the Shia minority, last Saturday sparked a flurry of retaliatory developments, the Persian daily Donya-e-Eqtesad reported.
A group of protesters broke into the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad, which led to Riyadh halting diplomatic and trade ties as well as air traffic with Tehran.
A group of Saudi allies, including Bahrain, Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia, followed suit and broke off diplomatic ties with Iran, while the UAE downgraded its relations and Kuwait and Qatar recalled their envoys.
Trade between Saudi Arabia and Iran is small, compared with the size of their economies. In fact, their last economic meeting was the Seventh Iran-Saudi Arabia Commission convened in May 2005 in Riyadh.
Exports to and imports from Saudi Arabia stood at $158 million and $45 million respectively in the last Iranian year (ended March 20, 2015). Iran’s main exports during the period included sponge iron, fresh and dried pistachio, saffron, semi-finished products from iron or steel, raisins, floorings, zinc, clinker and white cement. These items constituted 86% of the overall exports to Saudi Arabia.
Major imports, including vehicles, cartons, bottles, minerals, fertilizers and polyethylene accounted for 68% of total imports from Saudi Arabia.
In the Iranian year that ended in March 2008, trade between the two countries stood at $810 million; Iran’s imports accounted for $500 million of the figure and the rest pertained to exports to the Arab country.
The following year, bilateral trade dropped to $566 million. Iran’s exports stood at $394 million while its imports hovered around $172 million.
The Iranian year ending March 2010 saw bilateral transactions decline by 28% to stand at $405 million. Iran’s exports to and imports from Saudi Arabian were worth $177 million and $228 million respectively.
The falling trend in the two countries’ economic exchanges extended to the succeeding year, experiencing a 39% fall. Iran exported $75 million worth of goods to the Arab country and imported commodities valued at $171 million.
Despite an increase in Iran’s exports to $108 million and decline of imports to $138 million in the Iranian year that ended in March 2012, the two countries’ trade volume remained unchanged.
Iran-Saudi Arabia trade took yet another dive in the Iranian year that ended in March 2013. Exports to and imports from Saudi Arabia hovered around $115 million and $70 million respectively to register a 25% drop in trade volume compared to its preceding year to stand at $185 million.
Their trade in the Iranian year that ended in March 2014 registered a 27% drop to stand at $135 million. Iranian exports constituted $91 million and its imports totaled $44 million in this period.
After seven consecutive years of downward trend, economic exchanges between the two rallied in the last Iranian year that ended in March 2015, posting a 50% rise compared to its preceding year.
Also, the eight-month period ending November 21, 2015, saw exports worth $132.2 million and imports valued at $40.3 million to and from Saudi Arabia.

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