EghtesadOnline: At a joint event attended by the 36-strong delegation from Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture and its Viennese counterpart, an Austrian official heralded the imminent improvement in Iran-Austria trade ties as banking channels are being restored.
"In 2016, a number of good agreements of cooperation were signed with Iranian companies while one-third of these deals pertained to countries that are active and have representative offices in Vienna," Anton Aufner, director of WIFI International, which is a training institute for economic promotion of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, said at the event.
Aufner noted that in 2017, Austrian exports to Iran have grown along with Iranian goods imported to Austria, TCCIM's website reported.
"We hope we can approach €400 million worth of bilateral trade in the foreseeable future," he said, referring to the level of joint trade before international sanctions were imposed on Iran, according to Financial Tribune.
"Our goal is for Iran to become one of the main economic partners of Austria in areas such as pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, information technology, energy and urban infrastructure again," he said, adding that the Vienna Chamber of Commerce will facilitate the entry of Iranian exporters to Eastern Europe as well.
It was announced in the meeting that Tehran Mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi will make a trip to Vienna as part of a delegation aimed at improving Iran-Austria economic prospects.
Restoring Banking Channels
In a separate meeting, Hans Penz, the speaker of the parliament of Lower Austria, the northeastern-most state in the Central European nation, said he welcomes Iranian banks.
"A large community of Iranians lives in Austria and in thinking of them and in line with expanding our economic ties with Iran, banking relations would play a vital role in improving the level of bilateral ties," he said.
Penz was responding to Iran's interest and request to open bank branches in Austria conveyed by the head of economic mission led by TCCIM Secretary-General Bahman Eshqi, who was accompanied by TCCIM's deputy for international affairs, Mohammad Reza Bakhtiari, and Iran's Ambassador to Austria Ebadollah Molaei.
Eshqi elaborated that two Iranian private banks, namely Middle East Bank and Sina Bank, are in the process of opening branches in Munich, becoming the first Iranian lenders to do so even as Iranian banks have branches elsewhere in Germany.
"Middle East Bank is to open its Munich branch before 2017 is out," Bakhtiari said at the meeting, adding that other private banks can apply to establish Austrian branches if possible.
Eshqi said a number of concerns by Austrian lenders would be alleviated should their Iranian counterparts manage to establish branches in their country.
Foreign Finance to Equip Tehran Hospital
The TCCIM official referred to the €1 billion fund allocated to Iranian banks by the Austrian Oberbank, saying he will make it his mission upon returning to Iran to ensure the private sector has its share from the credit line.
Pointing out that the ownership and management of Bazarganan (Traders) Hospital has been returned to the Tehran commerce chamber recently, he said the board of representatives of the chamber wishes to develop the hospital and counts on foreign finance to do so.
"We are eager to build a new hospital beside the old one through an Austrian credit line, so that an Austrian company would finance the project and after the hospital is inaugurated, the expenses would be returned to the company," Eshqi said.
Penz said, "We can introduce to you companies that are active in this area and could collaborate with Bazarganan Hospital in terms of human resources and exchange of know-how."
As outlined in TCCIM's board of representatives meeting in mid-October, the hospitals' ownership and management was returned to the chamber through a deal with the state-run charity Imam Khomeini Relief Committee last year and the chamber now wishes to outfit and renovate the hospital, located in southeast Tehran, to transform it into the most equipped and specialized healthcare center in the Iranian capital.
In the meeting, Eshqi invited Penz to travel to Tehran, an invitation that was accepted by the Austrian official who said he will do so by leading a commercial delegation.
The Iranian ambassador said the embassy is trying to obtain the services of an Austrian company for building the hospital, as the company is already financing the establishment of several hospitals in Iran.
"A number of Austrian banks are willing to open representative offices and branches in Tehran, which would help expand bilateral banking ties," Molaei added.