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EghtesadOnline: Boosting the country's petrochemical revenues entails expansion of target markets, the deputy director of Iranian Oil, Gas and Petrochemical Products Exporters Union said.

"Petrochemical exports currently have a $10-11 billion share in the country's annual revenues that, under Iran's Sixth Five-Year Economic Development Plan [2017-22], are expected to exceed $30 billion," Fariborz Karimaei was also quoted as saying by ILNA on Wednesday. 

"However, the goal may not be achieved unless we diversify our target markets." 

According to Karimaei, increasing the sector's exports by $20 billion requires an investment of $50 billion that should mostly come from foreign sources, Financial Tribune reported.

The official called on the Oil Ministry and National Iranian Petrochemical Company to gain more ground in African and European markets, which were removed from the petrochemical export agenda after the imposition of nuclear sanctions in 2011.

The lion's share of petrochemical exports is bound for China, India and South Korea. China alone receives over 50% of Iran's exports in this sector while its lack of cooperation has challenged financial interactions.

"Unfortunately, our target markets were narrowed down during the international nuclear sanction period," he said, implying that such limits give buyers a leverage not to fulfill their commitment.

The government in China ramped up an anti-graft campaign in its financial sector in mid-2017. The move complicated money transfer for Iran's petrochemical sales and a bulk of debts remained unpaid.

Karimaei noted that financial problems with China prove the need to look for broader markets. 

"However, this is not an easy task, which entails time and effort," he said.

Nuclear-related sanctions against Iran were removed in January 2016 following an historic agreement with the six world powers. However, major lenders and multinationals have not yet resumed collaboration with Tehran due to the unilateral US restrictions related to other issues like development of ballistic missiles and alleged human rights issues.

---- Economic Diplomacy

Economic diplomacy is key to expansion of petrochemical exports and resolution of problems with current business partners, the deputy director of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture said.

Adnan Mousapour added that formulating proper policies and making use of the private sector bear high importance in this regard, NPC's official news portal reported.

Regardless of the challenges, China is too big a market to ignore. Iran exported 21.12 million tons of commodities, mainly oil and petrochemical products, worth $6.4 billion to China in the first quarter of 2017, according to a report by Iran-China Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

Petrochemical is Iran's most important industry after oil and gas. The country produced 50.61 million tons of petrochemicals in the fiscal 2016-17 that ended in March, of which 20.3 million tons, worth $9.5 billion, were exported, government data showed. 

Holding some of the world's largest crude oil and natural gas reserves, Iran's petrochemical industry is comparatively underdeveloped. NPC hopes to lift nominal output capacity to 120 million tons per annum by 2022.

Iran aims to produce more than 40% of the Middle East’s total petrochemical output by 2021 and become the largest petrochemical producer in the region in a decade.


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