Tuesday, 07 July, 2020

Britain’s biggest-ever trade mission to visit Iran

UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Sajid Javid plans to lead a delegation of companies in May to take advantage of the recent lifting of sanctions against Tehran.

According to Financial Times, Sajid Javid will announce on Wednesday what is expected to be Britain’s biggest-ever trade mission to Iran, hailing the “almost unlimited” opportunities in the Middle East state.

He will tell guests at the FT Iran Summit in London that Britain’s future as a trading nation cannot depend on engaging only with “easy, familiar trading partners”. Instead, the country’s future will lie beyond the “usual suspects” in Europe and Britain’s traditional Anglophone allies.

“We can’t afford to stick with what we know,” he will say. “We have to secure new markets for British goods, new sources of foreign investment.”

Javid will, meanwhile, announce that the government’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance, has signed a memorandum of understanding with its Iranian counterpart, the Export Guarantee Fund of Iran.

“Trade opens doors. It provides a platform on which to build diplomatic relations,” he will say. “It creates influence and leverage when it comes to negotiation and builds a bulwark against political instability.”

Relations between Britain and Iran have improved during the past year, spurred by the centrist approach of Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president.

An international deal on Iran’s nuclear programme last year was followed by the reopening of the British embassy in Tehran and then — in January — by the lifting of a range of EU and US economic sanctions.
Last year’s nuclear agreement gave Tehran access to tens of billions of dollars in unfrozen assets and prompted predictions that Iran could attract up to $50bn of investment in just one year.

Francis Maude, Britain’s outgoing trade minister, said in January that UK businesses should “take advantage of the commercial opportunities that will arise from sanction relief”.

Key sectors include oil and gas, with Shell this week repaying a longstanding £1.4bn debt to Iran’s national oil company, a move that could pave the way for future investment in the country.

Lord Lamont, the former chancellor, has been appointed trade envoy to Iran, as part of a broader government push to increase Britain’s exports. The Tory peer already chaired the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce.

Philip Hammond became the first foreign secretary to visit Iran since 2003 when he attended the reopening of the British embassy last August. Lord Maude, former trade minister, took a small business delegation to the country in late October.

Photo: Sajid Javid, UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Ski

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