EghtesadOnline: Trade between Iran and EU member states during the first five months of 2019 stood at €2.05 billion to register a 76.31% plunge compared with last year’s corresponding period.
Iran’s trade with Cyprus and Bulgaria increased by 75.63% and 29.57% respectively. These were the only EU members to experience an increase in commercial exchanges with Iran over the period, as those with the remaining 26 EU member states declined.
Trade with Greece (€19.24 million), Croatia (€2.89 million), Luxembourg (€129,374), Spain (€98.24 million) and France (€144.92 million) saw the sharpest declines of 97.56%, 95.36%, 94.62%, 92% and 88.39% respectively.
Eurostat (European Statistical Office) is a directorate of the European Commission located in Luxembourg. Its main responsibilities are to provide statistical information to EU institutions and promote the harmonization of statistical methods across its member states and candidates for accession, according to Financial Tribune.
Organizations in different countries that cooperate with Eurostat are summarized under the framework of the European Statistical System.
Exports Decline 93.65%
Iran exported €310.29 million worth of commodities to the EU during the five-month period, indicating a 93.65% fall compared with the similar period of the previous year.
The country’s main export destinations over the period were Germany (€85.44 million), Italy (€63.24 million), Belgium (€39.31 million), Spain (€27.33 million) and Romania (€17.9 million).
Iran’s exports to Latvia, Estonia and Hungary experienced the highest year-on-year growth rates of 780.72%, 122.74% and 47.52% respectively.
This is while exports to France, Greece and Spain fell by 99.05%, 98.99% and 98.14% YOY respectively, which are the sharpest among EU member states.
The exported goods mainly included plastic and plastic products worth €73.41 million; edible fruits and nuts, zest of citrus fruit or melons worth €53.07 million; iron and steel worth €27.8 million; coffee, tea and spices worth €19.57 million; pharmaceutical products worth €16.84 million; carpet and other textile floorings worth €14.76 million; products of animal origin worth €12.13 million; iron and steel products valued at €12.08 million; and lac, gums, resins and other vegetable saps and extracts worth €9.39 million.
Imports Fall 54%
Imports from the EU dropped by 54.04% to stand at €1.74 billion during the period under review.
The top five exporters from the European bloc to Iran were Germany with €559.89 million, Italy with €291.14 million, the Netherlands with €192.48 million, France with €136.84 million and Belgium with €86.24 million worth of shipments to Iran.
Cyprus with €2.67 million, Bulgaria with €17.18 million, Malta with €119,421 were the only EU countries whose exports to Iran saw a YOY increase (82.47%, 45.57% and 14.66% respectively).
Luxembourg with €99,585, Slovakia with €895,210 and Estonia with €515,145 experienced the sharpest YOY decline in exports to Iran (95.74%, 80.64% and 79.45% respectively).
The imports mainly included nuclear reactor parts, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances and parts worth €434.31 million; pharmaceutical products worth €259.93 million; optical, photographic, cinematographic, measuring, checking, precision, medical or surgical instruments and apparatus worth €206.99 million; cereals worth €96.6 million; and electrical machinery and equipment, sound recorders and reproducers, television image and sound recorders and reproducers and parts and accessories thereof worth €84.82 million.
Other imported products included organic chemicals worth €57.5 million; plastics and plastic articles worth €44.19 million; miscellaneous chemical products worth €44.08 million; essential oils and resinoids, perfumery, cosmetic and toilet preparations worth €35.36 million, paper and paperboard; articles of paper pulp, of paper or of paperboard with €30.59 million; and mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation; bituminous substances; and mineral waxes with €27.68 million.
INSTEX Remains Elusive
Amid the United States' "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran, trading with Europe has become a challenge for the Islamic Republic.
Since US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal last May, its other signatories—Germany, France, UK, China and Russia—have scrambled to find ways to maintain trade with Iran. But they have been stymied by companies’ reluctance to risk Washington’s wrath.
The EU launched a special payment channel, known as INSTEX, in January to circumvent US sanctions banning trade with Iran.
The idea is to set up a so-called mirror-image transaction system that replaces potentially sanctionable payments between Europe and Iran with ones that do not cross Iran’s borders.
Just 10 EU states are members and the mechanism’s initial credit line of several million euros is a fraction of EU-Iran trade, which stood at more than €20 billion annually before the US sanctions.
Iran has expressed frustration that the remaining signatories to the nuclear deal have not done more to give it relief from economic sanctions reimposed by the US, particularly restrictions on its ability to export oil. It has underlined its discontent by breaching limits agreed in the accord on its uranium enrichment processes, Financial Times reported.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, has described INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) as “not sufficient”.
Speaking in New York on Thursday, Zarif said INSTEX “may not resolve our problem” because it could not facilitate oil exports.
“Unless oil goes into INSTEX, it can’t be substantial … Without oil, there is no substantial trade,” Zarif told reporters at the Iranian mission to the UN.
“The issue of whether or not INSTEX will deal with oil is a discussion that is ongoing among the shareholders,” Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy head, said recently.
Iran wants Europe to buy its oil so that it can use the hard currency earnings to import essential commodities and medicines through INSTEX.
INSTEX is a special-purpose vehicle established in January 2019 by France, Germany and the United Kingdom to facilitate non-US dollar and non-SWIFT trade with Iran.