EghtesadOnline: A high-ranking trade delegation from the Iranian private sector has traveled to Madrid, Spain, and met with the heads of CESCE, the European nation's export credit agency, to resolve banking and insurance issues impeding the development of bilateral trade.
The 30-strong delegation headed by President of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture Gholamhossein Shafei left Tehran for Madrid on Sunday. It includes representatives of companies active in the fields of banking, insurance, agriculture, tourism, mines, petrochemicals, construction and renewable energies.
Once in the Spanish capital, they were joined by Iran's Ambassador to Spain Mohammad Hassan Fadaei-Fard and attended a host of bilateral talks with the aim of removing trade obstacles, particularly lackluster banking ties, Financial Tribune reported.
CESCE, Spanish State ECA
On Monday, the Iranian delegates met with CESCE Director Jaime Garc?a-Legaz who said, "We currently have no limitations in working with Iran," the official news portal of ICCIMA reported.
CESCE manages export credit insurance on behalf of the Spanish state that also owns a majority stake in the agency.
As Garcia-Legaz notes, CESCE resumed insurance coverage for companies working with Iran immediately after the nuclear deal was implemented in January 2016 and in spite of the banking stalemate that currently persists, "we have so far provided €2.7 billion ($3.2 billion) worth of export credit guarantees".
The official said he has personally negotiated with a Spanish bank so that it would do business with Iran and hoped that other major banks would also do so.
However, he added, Spanish financial institutions are privately-run and the government has no pressure mechanism in this regard.
"We have also negotiated with a Russian bank so that it can also become active in projects inside Iran and assist you," Garc?a-Legaz said.
Shafei said the Iranian private sector appreciates the fact that Spain continued to work with Iranian business community during sanctions, adding that given its low debt volume and high GDP growth, "Iran is the most stable and least risky country for investment in the Middle East".
But he noted that lack of banking ties remains the biggest problem.
"While the UK, Germany and Italy have reestablished banking relations with Iran to a degree, major Spanish banks have remained reticent," he said.
Sercobe, Spanish Association of Manufacturers
The delegation also conferred with representatives of Sercobe, the Spanish Association of Manufacturers of Capital Goods headed by Sercobe President Francisco Pardo Piqueras.
Founded in 1964, the association represents more than 400 Spanish companies and collaborates closely with national and European organizations.
"Sercobe regards collaboration with Iranian companies as positive and it has been more than 50 years that we have been working with Iran," Piqueras said.
Stressing that the association wishes to continue its strong relations with Iran, the official said the nation can rely on it as a good partner as the company views Iran in the same light.
Shafei emphasized on the good ties with Spain and referred to the long history of relations between the two nations, which go back to centuries.
He said projects to develop oil and gas fields can become one of the main areas of cooperation while adding that in view of the more than 200 sunny days and water shortage, investments in renewable energies, new irrigation system and mechanized agriculture will be welcome by Iran.
However, the ICCIMA chief complained that a number of Spanish companies have practically "sanctioned themselves" from working with Iran.
"They have been affected by negative publicity against Iran, especially in the banking industry, so we hope that we can find solutions and Spanish banks would lead the way in resolving the hurdles," Shafei said.
Mohammad Taheri, the head of the Iran-Spain Chamber of Commerce, reminded that Sercobe has committed to financing projects in the petrochemical industry worth $3 billion–a commitment that Piqueras promised would soon be implemented.
As part of the next leg of the Iranian delegation's trip, the Iran-Spain Business Forum was held in Madrid, at which Shafei delivered a keynote speech and was joined by José Luis Bonet Ferrer, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Spain.
The ICCIMA chief pointed to Iran-Spain bilateral trade in 2016, which stood at $1.4 billion and stressed on creating a new momentum in banking cooperation and strengthening finance and export credit coverage, which are "the most important prerequisites to expanding trade and investment ties".
In conclusion, Shafei turned his attention to bank guarantees, noting that they must be reviewed so that Iranian contractors could participate in investment projects.
"Iranian contractors have the capacities to participate in tenders and compete with international companies. Therefore, approving Iranian bank guarantees can open many doors for them," he said.
Intro: A 30-strong delegation from the Iran Chamber of Commerce is in Madrid and has so far met with Spain's export credit agency, the nation's association of manufacturers and has held a business forum with the Spanish Chamber of Commerce