EghtesadOnline: When top-level officials and business representatives gathered in Tehran on Saturday as part of the two-day Sixth Iran-Europe Banking and Business Forum, the shadow of US President Donald Trump’s upcoming decision about Iran’s nuclear deal and the uncertainty this has sown hung heavy.
Almost all the keynote speeches and conversations in the biannual event, the next edition of which is scheduled for November in Frankfurt, Germany, revolved around the May 12 US decision that is widely expected to deny further official waivers to sanctions that were relieved on Jan. 16, 2016, as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal is formally known.
Despite French President Emmanuel Macron’s admitted failure in his “Trump-whispering” trip to Washington and the newly appointed head of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling it “unlikely” that Trump would keep the US in JCPOA, one of the main organizers of Saturday’s event said he believes the landmark deal won’t break, Financial Tribune reported.
“I also believe that the European Union will continue its efforts to keep the deal alive,” Nader Maleki told the audience in his inauguration speech.
While not everyone tried to predict the outcome of the deal during the conference, both sides agreed on the fact that Iran has not received the full benefits promised under JCPOA, mainly because major financial institutions remain extremely wary of working with their Iranian counterparts for fear of US penalties dangling in an atmosphere of uncertainty that has persisted since the deal was implemented.
Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi used his time to advise EU to adopt a solid stance like other major world powers and gradually differentiate between their own values from those of the US that he said are clearly moving toward mercantilism that eventually leads to tensions and war.
“If Europe doesn’t adopt a clear stance against the US, can it continue to enjoy the current benefits?” he asked European representatives and cited a history stretching over thousands of years that shows Iran as a nation dedicated to its commitments.
The minister promised that Iran now knows it has to play by international rules and so it will strive to improve itself, partly by joining remaining international agreements “even if some [local forces] try to politicize everything”.
Akhoundi called for a new round of political negotiations and direct talks with the EU on economic issues.
Iran’s Ambassador to Germany Ali Majedi also called on the EU to stop allowing the US to dictate its economic decisions to the world through the pervasiveness of the dollar, at a rate that goes higher than its close to 25% share of world GDP.
Majedi said his talks with top German financial officials, including the heads of Deutsche Bundesbank, Deutsche Bank AG, and BaFin to develop banking relations with Iran have largely failed, and so called on Europeans to create an all-euro bank, even as he admitted that such a bank “will never become a major bank” because of sidelining the greenback.
Valiollah Seif, the governor of the Central Bank of Iran, mostly focused on the achievements of JCPOA and all the reforms that are ongoing in Iran’s banking system.
“I said all these things with the aim of reassuring the gathering that the central bank and the government have devised comprehensive plans to improve the country’s financial system and will follow up on them with full commitment,” he said.
“I also confirm that the EU has done many things to uphold JCPOA, but considering its power and will, we expect it to consider safe banking channels with government support to pave the way for expanded ties.”
Seif said that in line with better adhering to Anti-Money Laundering and Combatting Financing of Terrorism regulations, CBI will publish Iran’s first “National AML Risk Document” in the next few months.
Abdolnasser Hemmati, the head of Central Insurance of Iran and the representative of the growing industry, elaborated on talks with EU.
He referred to a number of recent agreements with some of the world’s biggest reinsurance firms–Germany’s Munich RE for instance–and welcomed offering and receiving reinsurance coverage.
“We are fully ready to expand our relationships by considering mutual ties,” he said, highlighting the potentials of Iran’s life insurance portfolio and the excessive loss insurance.
European representatives who delivered speeches included Ulrich von Zanthier, the head of financial services at the Netherlands’ KPMG, Klaas Wiertzema, social psychologist and director of the Netherlands’ Ardens, Annemarie van der Heijden, European Union External Action Service (EEAS) Task Force Iran, and Behrouz Abdolvand, CEO of DF Deutsche Forfait AG.
The KPMG official noted that his firm entered Iran in 2016 when sanctions were lifted.
“We want to be here, trade with you and offer you our services, despite all the uncertainties,” von Zanthier declared.
He did, however, note that some European firms make business decisions to exclude services to Iran, and that is not exclusive to Iran as even some Americans are denied service based on purely economic and business values. He also called on Iranian businesses to realize their potential for local growth independent of external factors.
Van der Heijden outlined EU’s engagements with Iran and the world powers party to the JCPOA, and called the deal “an excellent example of what can be achieved through cooperation rather than confrontation”.
She also vowed that EEAS will continue to reach out to financial and commercial sectors within Europe, but also pointed out that no European government can outright order its banks to work with Iran because of open market rules.
“We believe that Iran’s reintegration into the world economy is in our mutual interest,” van der Heijden said.
The Iran-Europe forum also included two expert panels, including both Iranian and European members. The first discussed “changes in political borders of countries: challenges and opportunities” while the second was titled “management of modern compliance”.
In conclusion, the first day of the event offered three educational workshops on “management of modern compliance”, “banking education” and “financing trade”.