EghtesadOnline: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the Trump administration is not seeking to disrupt European business deals with Iran, offering a message of reassurance following US President Donald Trump’s refusal last week to certify Iran’s nuclear deal, reads an article published by The Wall Street Journal.
“The president’s been pretty clear that it’s not his intent to interfere with business deals that the Europeans may have underway with Iran,” Tillerson said in a Thursday interview in his State Department office. “He’s said it clearly: ‘That’s fine. You guys do what you want to do’.”
The comments came after Trump last week adopted a harsh new approach to Iran by refusing to certify its compliance with the nuclear deal, struck with the United States and five other powers, including Britain, France and Germany, after more than a decade of diplomacy.
Trump has given the US Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran lifted under the pact in exchange for the scaling down of the country’s nuclear program, Financial Tribune reported.
Tillerson said he would take the lead on addressing those concerns with allies.
“We’ve been working with the Europeans for six months,” Tillerson said. “They have been brought along with this same thought process. It doesn’t mean that they necessarily agree entirely with it … Now we will start a more formalized process with them now that the policy’s been adopted.”
His comments seemed aimed at assuaging European concerns that Washington is deliberately creating uncertainty about the nuclear deal’s future to pressure European banks and firms to stay away from Iran.
Earlier this year, the White House said Trump had told other leaders at a Group of 20 meeting in Germany they should not do business with Iran, despite the removal of most international sanctions under the nuclear deal.
European diplomats have said that by denying Iran the economic benefits of the nuclear deal, Washington’s policy could persuade Tehran to turn away from the deal.
EU Reaffirms “Full Commitment” to Nuclear Deal
EU leaders, who lobbied to stop Trump from withholding his support for the deal, met in Brussels on Thursday and afterward released a statement reaffirming the bloc’s “full commitment” to the 2015 agreement. The EU has said it would keep European sanctions suspended as long as Iran sticks by its commitments under the deal.
“We fully stay committed to the complete implementation by all sides of the Iranian nuclear deal. We see this as a key security interest for the European Union and the region,” said the bloc’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini.
She has pointed out that no single country has the right to terminate the nuclear deal. The US president “has many powers”, Mogherini said earlier. “Not this one.”
Mogherini has said any US decision to unilaterally pull out of the nuclear deal is an “internal process”.
“The European Union considers President Trump’s decision not to certify Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as being in the context of an internal US process. The European Union encourages the United States to maintain its commitment to the JCPOA and to consider the implications for the security of the United States, its partners and the region before taking further steps,” reads a statement posted on The European External Action Service.
Mogherini plans to visit the United States in November to try and persuade administration officials not to abandon the Iran nuclear agreement.
Surging Trade Ties
European trade ties with Iran have surged since the nuclear deal was implemented in January 2016 and a range of energy, auto and other major European firms have started to invest in Iran or are exploring investments.
EU trade with Iran almost doubled last year to around $16 billion.
Statistics on two-way trade during the first half of 2017 also show strong growth. According to Eurostat, Iran exchanged €9.9 billion worth of goods with the EU during the period, registering a 95% rise compared with last year’s corresponding period.
Iran’s imports from EU’s 28 nations reached €4.94 billion in H1, recording a %38.5 rise year-on-year. The imports mainly included manufactured goods and chemicals. Germany topped the list of exporters to Iran, shipping €1.39 billion worth of goods to the Islamic Republic.
Exports from Iran to the European Union during the six-month period, mainly including petroleum, petroleum products and related materials, stood at $5 billion, indicating a 227% rise YOY.
Italy was the biggest importer from Iran among all the European states, as it bought €1.54 billion worth of Iranian goods.
Tillerson declined to specifically address the fate of multibillion-dollar deals reached by Boeing under the 2015 accord.
Boeing, which was the first major US company to announce a major business venture with Iran, last year agreed to sell dozens of commercial planes to Tehran.
Tillerson said most US business activity remains prohibited by sanctions that were not waived as part of the deal, but Trump is “not trying to interfere with what businesses want to do”.