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EghtesadOnline: Norway's Ambassador to Iran Lars Nordrum has met with top representatives of the Islamic Republic's private sector to discuss ways of boosting bilateral ties in the face of returning US sanctions.

Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture President Masoud Khansari, who received the ambassador on Wednesday, said strengthening relations by supporting and developing small- and medium-sized enterprises was among the topics of discussion, the chamber's news website reported.

Nordrum and the Iranian representatives called for boosting SMEs, empowering cooperation in the areas of renewable energies and seafood exports, in addition to employing measures for sidestepping US sanctions such as barter trade.

The ambassador assured TCCIM officials that Norway is working closely with the European Union to secure a "Special Purpose Vehicle" aimed at maintaining trade with Iran, Financial Tribune reported.

He criticized the decision in May by US President Donald Trump to unilaterally withdraw from a landmark nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers and reimpose sanctions. 

Noting that Norway will not go along with the sanctions, he said the European country will make efforts to reduce their negative impacts on Norwegian companies trying to start business in Iran or maintain their presence in the Iranian market.

During his meeting with private sector representatives, Nordrum said trade figures show that during the first eight months of 2018, Iran-Norway trade surged by 150% compared with the corresponding period of the year before.

"It seems that the two areas of shipping and oil and gas will be impacted by the sanctions, but other areas such as production and export of seafood, which is an area of joint cooperation, can remain active," the ambassador said.

"Projects in renewable energies, especially solar and wind plants, are also underway which could continue despite US sanctions."

He remains "cautiously optimistic" about the future of bilateral trade prospects in spite of the US sanctions.

Nordrum pointed out that even as major European companies may wind down their operations due to the sanctions, SMEs will have a lot of ground to work with and their operations will be boosted through the EU's independent mechanism known as Special Purpose Vehicle, which is aimed at circumventing US sanctions in transactions with Iran

Khansari pointed out that contrary to the previous period of sanctions, the US is now isolated in case of Iran.

Beyond Iran, he added, Trump is at odds with strategic allies such as Canada and Europe while engaging in an escalated trade war and sanctions with China, Russia and Turkey.

"Sanctions will inevitably have negative repercussions for the operations of the private sector, but still we can use this opportunity to rebuild and improve the economic structure of the country," he said in reference to currency fluctuations of recent months that have exposed domestic structural deficiencies home.

The TCCIM chief added that the devaluing rial means that the country can increasingly prioritize exports and gain a better share of regional markets.

Iran's trade balance has significantly improved due to a freefalling rial. 

According to latest data released by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration for the first half of the current fiscal year (ended Sept. 22), Iran's exports grew by 13% while imports dipped by 12%. 

Iran's trade balance stood at $940 million in the period while the country witnessed a trade deficit of $472 million last year.

During the meeting with the Norwegian ambassador, Khansari said "non-oil exports by the private sector are less prone to the tracking of all transactions and sanctions by the US".

In conclusion, the private sector representative said Iran expects European nations not to bow to US aggression, adding that barter trade is a good mechanism to maintain ties in the short run, in reference to the aforementioned SPV mechanism.


Iran Private Sector US sanctions Norway Ambassador Lars Nordrum