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EghtesadOnline: Outgoing Indian ambassador to Tehran, Saurabh Kumar, met with president of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture Masoud Khansari to discuss ways of continuing Iran-India trade relations under reimposed US sanctions.

During the meeting held at the TCCIM headquarters, the two sides reviewed workings of mechanisms devised to conduct trade relations during sanctions, TCCIM's website reported on Wednesday.

After US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers in May, he vowed to reimpose stringent sanctions against Iran, the second tranche of which came into effect on Nov. 5 targeting Iran's banking and oil sectors.

During the meeting, Khansari stressed that the US sanctions may present a new window of opportunity for Iran-India ties, saying they must focus on banking and financial cooperation, Financial Tribune reported.

Referring to the fact that the key Chabahar Port, developing in close cooperation with India, has been exempted from US sanctions, the TCCIM chief said the two sides must capitalize on this opportunity.

"Sanctions create many problems, but they have also created this opportunity for us to be able to tap into neglected capabilities and capacities," he said.

The private sector representative also pointed out that India has been granted temporary exemption to import Iranian oil, saying a mechanism must be devised through which Iran can import goods via barter and also have access to third parties.

Khansari said the Tehran Chamber is conducting studies on regional trade partners, including India, to see how much of its import and export needs it can meet through which country and how.

The Indian ambassador provided the private sector representative with a list of goods Iran can import from India.

The list, he said, has been devised by the Indian Embassy and categories goods based on dollar value. He added that about 1,000 goods suitable for Iran-India trade under the current circumstances have been identified.

"Fortunately, trade based on the national currencies of the two countries has become a clear and transparent mechanism, so Iran can meet a portion of its important needs by using India's rupee," Kumar said.

He explained that India can import 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day for the next six months from Iran based on the US exemption, and half that money will be wired to accounts belonging to Iranian banks in Indian banks in rupees. 

Iran can, in turn, purchase essential goods such as food, medicine and humanitarian trade goods that are exempt from sanctions.

"The money can also be used by the Iranian Embassy in India or by Iranian students studying in Indian universities, or by Iranian companies investing in India," the ambassador said.

The remaining half of the oil money may be exchanged into euros or other foreign currencies for Iran to receive and transfer, Kumar added, noting that a mechanism will be required to do this if the money is to be transferred out of India.

The ambassador said based on sanctions regulations of the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury Department, humanitarian trade goods and other goods not subject to sanctions should not technically run into any trouble.

He did, however, concede that "perhaps some major Indian companies that are active in the US market may not be willing to work with Iran", but reassured that a plethora of Indian companies are willing to work with Iran.

Kumar said local Indian rules, especially high value-added taxes for imported goods, are a major obstacle for trading with third parties and will most likely act as a showstopper.


Iran trade sanctions India Masoud Khansari Tehran Chamber of Commerce Saurabh Kumar