Economy, Domestic Economy

UK Envoy Takes Stock of Trade Ties at TCCIMA

UK Envoy Takes Stock of Trade Ties at TCCIMA
UK Envoy Takes Stock of Trade Ties at TCCIMA

The UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Iran Lord Lamont, accompanied by Britain’s charge de affairs, Nicholas Hopton, met with the head of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, Masoud Khansari, in Tehran on Friday to discuss ways of increasing Iran-UK bilateral trade.

“Britain’s commercial ties with Iran are less pronounced compared with the Islamic Republic’s relations with other European trade partners,” Khansari was quoted as saying by TCCIMA’s news portal.

“For British officials, political issues are seemingly more of a priority than economy.”

Iran-UK trade used to stand at $2.5 billion per annum before western sanctions were imposed over Iran’s nuclear program. The figure dropped to $450 million in the last Iranian year (ended March 19, 2015), according to Khansari.

Figures show that dates, saffron and floor coverings have been Iran’s major exports to the United Kingdom, while corn, wheat, barley, gas turbines and medical supplements were the Islamic Republic’s main imports from Britain.

According to Khansari, the two countries can boost their cooperation in a variety of other sectors including, but not limited to, oil, mining, automotive and aluminum.

Noting that Iran’s small and medium economic projects need investments worth $20-100 billion, he also called on British investors to take action and step in.

Lamont, who also co-chairs the Iranian-British Chamber of Commerce, said there is high potential for cooperation between Iran and Britain in oil and gas, aviation and infrastructure sectors.

“I personally have negotiated with top managers of major oil companies of Shell and BP, and they have assured me that they are ready to resume doing business with Iran,” he said.

During the past few months, Iran and the UK have organized several trade conferences on investment and trade. Among them was the Iranian Trade Conference: New Prospects for British-Iranian Trade and Investment held in London on 11th and 12th April.

The event was organized by City & Financial Global, one of the UK’s leading research-based conference companies, and sponsored by Lamont, among others.  

Yet, according to Khansari, “the most important barriers to trade cooperation are those related to banking and financial transactions”.

Lamont said his country is making “serious attempts” to assure major British and European banks to start interactions with the Islamic Republic.

The UK envoy has earlier acknowledged that the UK was trailing its European rivals.

“Britain suffered a bit because the government not only enforced sanctions but actively discouraged even legal trade while sanctions were in place, the result was that British trade collapsed by much more than that of Germany, France and Italy,” he said in February.

“Even America has exported more to Iran recently than we have.”

Lord Lamont, a former finance minister, was appointed to his new role as UK trade envoy to Iran three days after the implementation of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers on January 16. He is one of 12 trade envoys appointed by David Cameron who has set a target of doubling the UK’s annual exports to £1 trillion by 2020.