Post-sanctions, fears of US banking fines hamper Iran trade
The US Principal Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy has begun a diplomatic campaign with businesses to clarify the US stance on banking transactions with Iran. (AFP/Al Saadi)
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Following complaints by corporate leaders that fears of US punitive actions is preventing banks from processing transactions with Iran, Washington has emphasized that it has no intention to obstruct business with the Islamic Republic. Rather, it says it has started a diplomatic campaign to persuade wary firms that doing business with Iran – now that the sanctions against the country have been lifted – is all right.
Chris Backemeyer, Principal Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy at the US Department of State, said on Wednesday that US officials were meeting business leaders around the world to assure them that struggles to lift sanctions against Iran – as per a nuclear deal with the country that was reached last year – remain strong.
"We've tried to make it 100 percent clear," Backemeyer told reporters in Dubai, where he was meeting local and international companies to explain what the US saw as legitimate business with Iran and what it viewed as illegitimate, Reuters reported.
He said that while US banks were still banned from dealing with Iran as part of a trade embargo that remains in place - effectively blocking US dollar transactions, since they would ultimately be cleared in the United States - Washington would not penalize foreign banks for doing business in other currencies.
Reuters in an earlier report had emphasized that despite the January removal of economic sanctions against Iran, global enterprises are still complaining that trade with the country is still difficult as a result of lingering fears of US punitive actions.
It quoted business leaders as saying that a key obstacle which is specifically affecting business with Iran is the unwillingness of international banks to process transactions with the country.
US banks are still forbidden to do business with Iran and while lenders based elsewhere are not covered by this ban, major problems remain, emphasized the report. Chief among these are rules prohibiting transactions in dollars from being processed through the US financial system, it added.
The failure by European banks to play their due role in business with Iran has already provoked reactions from several EU leaders and business leaders.
British Prime Minister David Cameron in early March rebuked Barclays for hampering companies trying to export to Iran.
In a strongly worded letter to the bank, Cameron said that Barclays appeared to be operating “in opposition to the policy of the UK government”.
Also, Airbus which sealed an agreement with Iran in January to sell over 100 new planes to the country, has called on EU banks to dispel fears of doing business with Iran.
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