Thu, Nov 03, 2016 - Page 11 News List

UK trade minister says Iran dealings improving

Reuters, LONDON

Trade between Britain and Iran is beginning to grow and the British government is working to resolve banking sector concerns that are limiting further expansion, British Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox said yesterday.

Fox said that Anglo-Iranian relations had improved since Britain reopened its embassy in Tehran last year and that Britain would work to expand bilateral trade following Brexit.

He said that while this was an opportunity to put UK-Iranian relations on a new footing, the government was also “deeply concerned” about Iran’s record on human rights and British-Iranian dual nationals detained there.

Despite the removal of international banking restrictions in January, Tehran has secured links with only a limited number of smaller banks, as US sanctions remain in force and large foreign institutions still fear potential fines.

“Slowly, but with increasing enthusiasm, British companies are starting to do business with Iran again... We are seeing the first signs of growing trade between the UK and Iran,” Fox told a conference in London.

“The banking sector’s ongoing concerns about facilitating payments or providing financial services means that the benefits of sanctions relief are not yet being fully realized; resolving these problems remains a priority for this government,” he added.

Norman Lamont, Britain’s trade envoy to Iran and a former British minister of finance, said the deadlock over progress on banking access to Iran was “profoundly unsatisfactory.”

“This is an embarrassing situation... These difficulties only strengthen the critics of [Iranian] President [Hassan] Rouhani,” he told the event.

The administration of US President Barack Obama has tried to promote deeper international trade for Iran while still limiting US business engagement due to sanctions that bar US banks from doing business with Iran and prevent transactions with Iran in funds processed through the US financial system.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has spent months trying to encourage non-US banks and companies to boost trade, although he has acknowledged the tough process ahead.

Iranian Ambassador to the UK Hamid Baeidinejad said the banking problems were “highly troublesome” for Iran and said the US was “disappointed” with the situation.

Fox said the government was working with the banking sector to find a solution for Iranian payments and that Britain was well-placed to help private Iranian banks modernize.

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