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EghtesadOnline: Iran's overall non-oil foreign trade (except crude oil, mazut, kerosene and exports via suitcase trade) during the first five months of the current Iranian year (March 21-Aug. 22) stood at $35.53 billion, the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration reported.

Compared with $38.2 billion registered in last year's corresponding period, the new trade data show a 7% decline. 

Overall, Iran’s exports stood at 60.73 million tons worth $17.8 billion during the period to register a 29.86% growth in weight but a 9.14% decrease in value compared with the same period of last year. 

Imports hit 14.12 million tons worth $17.73 billion during the same period, indicating a decline of 0.11% in weight and 6.83% in value year-on-year, Financial Tribune reported.

The above figures show the country recorded a non-oil trade surplus of $70 million. 

China, Iraq, Turkey, the UAE and Afghanistan were Iran’s main export destinations over the period. 

Exports to China stood at $4.43 billion, constituting 24.91% of Iran's total exports. 

Iraq imported $3.9 billion worth of non-oil goods from Iran and accounted for 21.95% of Iran’s total exports.

Exports to Turkey reached $2.47 billion to account for 13.88% of Iran’s total exports. 

Non-oil goods sold to the UAE were worth $1.66 billion (9.36% of Iran’s overall exports). 

Exports to Afghanistan reached $898 million. The neighbor to the east accounted for 5.04% of Iran’s total exports during the period.   

Top exporters to Iran during the five months were China with $4.28 billion and a share of 24.16% from Iran’s total imports; the UAE with $3.04 billion and a share of 17.13%, Turkey with $2.21 billion and a share of 12.51%, India with $1.87 billion and a share of 10.55% and Germany with $865 million and a share of 4.88%.

By “non-oil”, IRICA refers to all commodities, except crude oil. Therefore, oil-driven products and byproducts, as well as petrochemical products, are still categorized as non-oil.  

IRICA categorizes non-oil exports into three groups of “petrochemicals”, “gas condensates” and “others”.

The decline in trade comes after the United States unilaterally walked out of the nuclear deal Iran had signed with world powers, including the US, in 2015 and reimposed a series of sanctions described as "toughest ever" to choke off Iran's trade, particularly of oil, by obstructing banking transactions and scaring off Iran’s trading partners.

The deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, saw the removal of international sanctions against Iran. In exchange, the country agreed to limit the scope of its nuclear program.

The return of sanctions wreaked havoc on the Iranian economy after an initial boost as a result of JCPOA and its implementation in 2016. As a result, the Iranian government adopted ad-hoc trade policies to cushion the effect of sanctions.

One such measure was to ban the import of a wide range of goods as of last year with the primary aim of economizing on foreign currency reserves. The measure basically pertains to commodities that are produced inside the country.



Neighbors in the Limelight

Iran plans to supply 5% of demands of its 15 neighboring countries by the fiscal March 2021-22, says deputy minister of industries, mining and trade, Hossein Modarres Khiyabani.

"Iran’s annual exports to neighbors are to reach more than $50 billion by the targeted year, considering neighboring countries’ annual imports of $1 trillion worth of commodities," Khiyabani was quoted as saying by Tasnim News Agency.

According to the official, the Industries Ministry’s Institute for Trade Studies and Research, and Trade Promotion Organization of Iran, are working on the details of the plan.

Amid harsh economic sanctions against Iran, the Islamic Republic's new trade strategy is to focus on exports to 15 neighboring countries, in addition to China and India—what former caretaker of Trade Promotion Organization of Iran, Mohammad Reza Modoudi, referred to as "15+2".

“Since our country is under sanctions and transporting goods with ships is mired in difficulties, logic dictates that we seriously pursue exports to neighboring countries and plan for it. This [strategy] will offset the negative effects of sanctions,” the former official was recently quoted as saying by Iran newspaper, adding that exports to India and China will be taken more seriously.

Iran has land or sea borders with 15 countries, namely the UAE, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, Oman, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kuwait, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Modoudi had also said that Iran plans to boost exports to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia—the two countries whose commercial exchanges with Iran have been next to zero in recent years.

Referring to Iraq as Iran's top export destination among neighbors (and second biggest in the world after China), the TPO official had announced that plans are underway to increase exports to Iraq from the current $9 billion per year to $18 billion in two years.

Iran is also Iraq's top trading partner after Turkey and China.

Speaking to IRNA, Modoudi unveiled plans to send 15 commercial attachés to neighboring countries.

He noted that currently Iranian commercial attachés are serving in Armenia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Oman, Pakistan and Turkey, adding that more commercial attachés will be sent to Russia, China, India, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.



Fiscal 2018-19 Trade With Neighbors

Iran traded 67.6 million tons of non-oil commodities worth $35.58 billion with its 15 neighboring countries in the last Iranian year (ended March 20, 2019) to register a 9.71% and 7.29% decline in tonnage and value respectively compared with last year’s corresponding period.

Latest data released by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration show Iran’s exports totaled 59.06 million tons worth $24.06 billion last year, indicating a slight decrease in tonnage and value year-on-year.

Imports stood at 8.54 million tons worth $11.52 billion, down 0.24% and 0.23% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.

A non-oil trade surplus of $12.54 billion was registered in favor of Iran during the period.

Iran mainly exported liquefied natural gas, gas condensates, low-density oils and mineral oils to the neighboring states.

In exchange, major commodities imported into Iran from the neighboring states included nuclear reactor parts, barley, field corn, rice, steam turbine parts and cellphones.

In terms of total trade value, the UAE topped the list among neighboring countries with Iran trade standing at 17.57 million tons worth $12.52 billion, down by 30.07% and 25.6% in tonnage and value respectively YOY.

Exports to UAE amounted to 13.75 million tons worth $5.95 billion to register a 24.53% and 12.06% decline in tonnage and value respectively YOY.

The UAE was Iran’s second biggest export destination among the countries under review and third worldwide.

In return, the UAE exported 3.82 million tons of commodities worth $6.56 billion to Iran, down by 44.68% and 34.71% in tonnage and value respectively YOY. 

The UAE was the top exporter of goods to Iran among neighboring states and second in the world after China.

Major Iranian commodities exported to UAE were gas condensates, low-density oils and mineral oils.

The UAE mainly exported steam turbine parts, cellphones, butter and turbojet parts to Iran.

Trade with Russia ($1.62 billion), Oman ($1.16 billion) and Iraq ($9.01 billion) saw the highest YOY growths of 59.13%, 51.16% and 35.75% respectively, while trade with Saudi Arabia ($360,397), Turkey ($4.98 billion) and Bahrain ($12,660) witnessed the lowest declines of 83.66%, 30.61% and 26.45% respectively.

Iran’s exports to Iraq ($8.96 billion), Pakistan ($1.24 billion) and Oman ($728.56 million) saw the highest growths of 36.71%, 35.77% and 32.07% respectively, while exports to Turkey ($2.36 billion), Kazakhstan ($131.4 million) and Armenia ($158.99 million) witnessed the highest declines 40.22%, 22.19% and 21.51% respectively.

Imports from Oman ($432.82 million), Russia ($1.34 billion) and Kazakhstan ($87.06 million) saw the highest growths of 99.75%, 84.52% and 30.46% respectively, while imports from Qatar ($9.54 million), Kuwait ($12.16 million) and Afghanistan ($10.93 million) witnessed the highest declines of 59.9%, 55.73% and 46.41% respectively.


Iran foreign trade Non-Oil