EghtesadOnline: The 15th meeting of the Iran-Armenia Intergovernmental Commission was held in Armenia’s capital city of Yerevan on Monday and Tuesday.
Iran's Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said on Tuesday that Iran views Armenia as a gateway for entering the Eurasian Economic Union markets, Armenian news agency NEWS.am reported.
He noted that Armenia can link the 80-million-strong Iranian market and the 160-million-strong EAEU market—which comprises Armenia, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
“Armenian-Iranian political relations can contribute to the improvement of relations between the countries of the region and promote multilateral cooperation,” Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
Ardakanian said the development of international transport corridors and multimodal cargo transportation will play a crucial role in strengthening multilateral ties, adding that Armenia’s modernization of its border checkpoint with Iran is of great importance.
"Iran is ready to increase the volume of gas exported to Armenia," the Iranian minister said in an address to the meeting, noting that both sides were negotiating the electricity for gas swap deal and the outcome of talks would be announced when they were over.
As part of the gas for electricity deal, Armenia currently receives about 370 million cubic meters of gas a year from Iran, which is converted into electricity and shipped back to Iran.
The energy ministers of Armenia, Russia, Iran and the deputy energy minister of Georgia signed in April 2016 in Yerevan a "roadmap" for the construction of about 1,000 MW North-South energy corridor.
"There is a lot of untapped potential for Armenia and Iran to unlock to boost their economic ties," Armenian Minister of Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources Ashot Manukyan said in the Tuesday meeting
According to Manukyan, bilateral trade totaled $363 million in 2017, up from $239 million in 2016.
The minister also stressed that the potential of cooperation between the two countries is not only in the energy sector, but also in agriculture, logistics and mining, ARKA news agency reported.
Iran-Armenia Intergovernmental Commission was established in 1992, in parallel with the establishment of diplomatic relations between the neighboring countries.
Meghri Free Economic Zone, located in the southern Armenian town of Meghri on the border with Iran, was inaugurated by Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan on Dec. 15 last year, with facilities for a wide range of fields, including agriculture, manufacturing, trade, cargo shipment, storage and tourism.
Companies operating in Meghri FEZ will be exempted from profit tax, value-added tax, excise tax and customs fees, while it would have to only pay income tax.
“To eliminate any obstacles, we opened the Meghri Free Economic Zone on the territory of Armenia. There is also the Aras Free Economic Zone operating on the Iranian territory. I’m confident that cooperation between these two zones will help overcome any legislative differences,” Ardakanian said on Tuesday.
Karapetyan has called on Eurasian Economic Union member states to take advantage of preferential terms in Meghri Free Economic Zone and export goods to Iran.
“This FEZ is a good platform for the Russian businesses and capital, which have an interest in Iran,” he was quoted by Armenpress as saying last month.
"Armenia, being an EEU member and having privileged customs regimes with the EU, a common border with Iran and an attractive investment and business environment, can be of vital interest for productions aimed at the export market with the existence of FEZ on the border with Iran, for using Armenia’s commercial logistic opportunities.”
In view of its geographical position, commercial and logistical capabilities as well as Armenia’s multi-sector preferential trade regimes, Armenian officials expect the zone to attract 50-70 companies in the coming years, investing $100-130 million and creating more than 1,500 jobs.
“The launch of Meghri Free Economic Zone will help increase trade turnover volumes between Armenia and Iran, exchanging experience with Iranian free economic zones,” Iranian Ambassador to Armenia Kazem Sajjadi was quoted as saying at the FEZ’s inaugural ceremony.