The plan is part of Iran’s wider approach to promote ties with regional countries. Western neighbours are now the country’s economic priority following the US sanctions.
Iran is planning to open trade offices in Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon to promote commercial relations with the western neighbouring countries, Iran’s trade ministry says as Tehran is setting sight on more regional commerce in the wake of US sanctions.
“Part of the plan is to open offices of the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade in the Iraqi cities of Erbil, Basra, Baghdad as well as Istanbul in Turkey,” Iranian Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Reza Rahmani told Iranian Ambassador to Oman Nuri Shahrudi on Monday.
The ministry has already an active office in the Turkish capital Ankara, he said.
Tehran is deepening its strategic political and trade ties with Baghdad after a series of visits by Iranian and Iraqi officials to each country since the start of the year following the formation of new Iraqi government.
Basra and Erbil are closest Iraqi cities to the Iranian border. Iran is looking to connect its railways with Iraqi railroads. The two governments are developing plans to construct a railway between its border city Shalamche with Basra. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, during his recent visit to Iran, that initial phase of this rail construction is expected to start in June.
Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan Region, holds strategic importance for bilateral trade as much of the commercial activities take place through the Iranian border with the region.
Iran is the main exporter of goods to Iraq with an annual trade volume of 12 billion dollars. Tehran and Baghdad are planning to reach 20 billion dollars in the next two years. “Our strategy to develop economic and political cooperation with Iraq is to hit the target of $20 billion trade in 2021 (1400, according to the Persian calendar), Iranian First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said on Sunday, addressing the joint Iran-Iraq business forum that was held at Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA) headquarters in Tehran.
55% of all Iran’s non-oil exports make their way to the the 15 neighbouring countries, according to the Iranian minister who stressed that only 2% of Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Oman’s imports come from Iran. “We plan to increase this to 5%,” Rahmani said.
Iran wants to increase trade cooperation with Oman, Iraq and Lebanon in a bid to enter the Arab countries’ market.
“Given Oman´s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with 27 countries, it’s the door to a 500-million-strong market and Iran should make most of this opportunity,” the Iranian official stressed.