Economy, Domestic Economy

Trade Delegation to Visit Oman

President Hassan Rouhani (R) greets Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said at the presidential palace in Tehran on August 25, 2013.
President Hassan Rouhani (R) greets Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said at the presidential palace in Tehran on August 25, 2013.

A trade delegation of representatives from the public and private sectors is scheduled to visit Oman in mid-September, said the deputy head of the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran Mohammad, Reza Modoudi.

The visit is timed to coincide with two major exhibitions in Muscat namely “Food and Hospitality Oman 2016” and “The 6th Oman Health Exhibition and Conference”, he said.

The delegation includes representatives of companies active in tourism, hospitality, transportation, food, medicine, construction and handicraft, ISNA reported.

Tehran and Muscat have had friendly ties throughout the years. The Sultanate of Oman has long prided itself on a more independent and balanced foreign policy that has, at times, diverged from its staunchly pro-western partners in the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council. However, that independent streak has some history.

When Oman’s Sultan Qaboos came to power in 1970, Iran deployed 4,000 troops to help quell Oman’s internal rebellion and insurgency in Dhofar Province. That assistance provided in a time of need has never been lost on the sultan and helps to explain why the two countries have had cordial ties despite the western sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program.

It is strongly believed that Muscat was instrumental in the secret negotiations between the United States and Iran that paved the way for the July 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the six world powers and ultimately ended the international economic sanctions.

As noted by Iran’s ambassador to Oman, Ali Akbar Sibaveh, “Iran will repay the sultanate for remaining an ally through ‘thick and thin’ by increasing investment in the country.”

That history has positioned the sultan to make deals with Iran that Oman hopes will help offset the effects of the declining crude oil prices in the past two years.

Recently the sultanate announced the launch of a direct shipping route between its port in Sohar, 220 km north of Muscat, and the Iran’s Shahid Rajaie Port near Bandar Abbas near the Strait of Hormuz.

It has also announced a new ferry service between Muscat’s Sultan Qaboos Port and Iran’s Chabahar Port.

The two Persian Gulf neighbors are poised to move forward on the construction of the 200-km undersea gas pipeline from Kouh-e-Mubarak in Iran to Oman’s Sohar Port, a project that dates back to 2009 and is estimated to generate $60 billion in revenues over 25 years once completed.

Earlier this month, the two countries agreed to change the route and design the pipeline to avoid waters controlled by the UAE. The planned pipeline would connect Iran’s vast gas reserves to Omani consumers as well as liquefied natural gas plants in Oman that would reexport the gas. After international sanctions on Tehran were lifted in January, the two sides renewed efforts to implement the project, but it has been delayed reportedly by disagreements over price and US pressure on Muscat to find other suppliers.

  Bilateral Trade

Iran exported $375.2 million worth of goods to Oman during the past Iranian year that ended in March, showing a 24% jump compared to a year before. It imported  $73 million worth of goods that was down 53% compared to the year before, according to the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.

Latest data on bilateral trade pertains to the first four months of the current Iranian year (March 20-July 21). According to IRICA, Iran exported 473,400 tons of non-oil goods valued at $272.8 million to Oman during the period, showing a 160% surge compared to last year’s corresponding period. Steel products, livestock, bitumen, petrochemicals, copper cathodes, cement, stones, saffron and carpets were among the main exports.

Meanwhile, more than 3,500 tons of commodities worth $20.4 million were imported from Oman during the four months, which indicates a 12% year-on-year decline. The main imports included vehicles, pharmaceuticals, machinery, industrial parts, electronics, auto parts and fertilizers.