Delegation of British businesspeople to visit Iran in May

British Secretary of State for Business, Innovation, and Skills Sajid Javid has expressed UK support for Iran’s campaign to join the World Trade Organization, announcing his plans to lead a delegation of businesspeople to Tehran in April.

During a meeting with Iran’s chargé d’affaires Mohammad Hassan Habibollahzadeh in London on Friday, Javid hailed the opportunities in the Iranian market and described the Islamic Republic as one of world’s emergent markets.

The business secretary said UK backs Iran to join the WTO, noting that “an economic delegation will pay a visit to Tehran in the upcoming May,” Mehr news agency said.

Executives from across all spheres of trade, including oil, gas, financial services, infrastructure, and engineering sectors, will be accompanying Javid on the trip.

The Iranian official, for his part, said Tehran would take the necessary measures to provide appropriate services to British companies to help facilitate their participation in the economic projects in Iran.

Habibollahzadeh underlined that the removal of banking restrictions following the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would encourage bilateral trade and investment.

Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia – plus Germany started to implement the JCPOA on January 16. After JCPOA went into effect, all nuclear-related sanctions imposed on Iran by the European Union, the Security Council and the US were lifted. Iran in return has put some limitations on its nuclear activities. The nuclear agreement was signed on July 14, 2015 following two and a half years of intensive talks.

In early March, UK Export Finance, the country’s export credit agency, and the Export Guarantee Fund of Iran, affiliated to the Ministry of Commerce, signed a memorandum of understanding on insurance coverage and financing of traders to facilitate exports and trade exchanges between the two countries.

According to Financial Times, Javid has said that London should make the best use of Iran’s opportunities as the future of the country as a trading nation cannot solely depend on “familiar trading partners”

“We can’t afford to stick with what we know… We have to secure new markets for British goods, new sources of foreign investment… Trade opens doors. It provides a platform on which to build diplomatic relations. It creates influence and leverage when it comes to negotiation and builds a bulwark against political instability.”

Largest economy out of WTO

Iran submitted an application to join the WTO in July 1996, less than two years after the intergovernmental organization that regulates international trade officially started its work. For over four years, Iran’s application had not been even considered due to US opposition and the Washington’s veto power in the WTO council.  

Iran’s bid for WTO membership was brought up 21 times in the council before it was approved unanimously by the member states in late-May 2005 so the WTO began to consider Iran’s membership. Once Iran’s application was examined by the council, Iran became an observer member and the process of full membership started. But the process has not finished yet and entered a new phase in November 2009 when Iran submitted the Foreign Trade Regime Memorandum, a file detailing the relevant laws and regulations necessary for the accession. There are still several steps of this multi-year process ahead until Iran can join WTO as a full member.

Iranian Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh said earlier in December that the conditions created after the lifting of the sanctions would make it necessary to speed up efforts to join the WTO, and called on members to help expedite the process.

“Now that years of intensive negotiations have finally cleared all the misunderstandings around Iran’s nuclear activities, we are taking the next step towards integrating more deeply into the global economy.”

“Finalizing WTO membership is therefore a priority for the Iranian government. As the largest non-member economy in the world, our full membership will be win-win for all and a significant step towards creating a truly universal organization.”

Every country who seeks to join the WTO has to modify its own laws with the laws of the organization, and Iran is no exception. Tehran must make some changes in its export and import tariffs, and its policies that can affect trade, including subsidies, agricultural rules, free trade and special economic zones, and copyright laws.

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