Economic Development Minister Tigran Khachatrian touted on Monday a preferential trade agreement signed by Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) last year, saying that it could greatly benefit Armenian exporters.
The agreement signed in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana will be valid for the next three years. It will abolish or lower import duties for around 300 types of products traded between Iran and Russia, Armenia and three other ex-Soviet states making up the trade bloc. The signatories pledged to work out a permanent free-trade arrangement during the three-year period.
The deal has since been ratified by the parliaments of Russia, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. Armenia’s National Assembly is expected to follow suit soon.
Khachatrian said he is looking forward to the deal’s entry into force. “Iran’s simplified trade agreement with the EEU will give major opportunities to companies operating in the EEU -- and Armenia in the first instance -- in terms of better access to the Iranian market,” he told reporters.
“It will also create opportunities for Iranian manufacturers for whom the Russian, Armenian, Belarusian and Kazakh markets are not insignificant at all, especially given the current state of the Iranian economy,” he said.
The minister argued that many of the 300 items covered by the deal are exported by Armenia to Iran. Armenian manufacturers will also be in a much better position to sell other products such as beef and mineral water in the vast Iranian market, he said.
According to official Armenian statistics, Armenia’s trade with Iran soared by over 40 percent, to almost $364 million, in 2018. However, Armenian exports to the Islamic Republic accounted for only one-quarter of that turnover. Armenian companies have long complained that Tehran’s protectionist policies seriously limit their access to the Iranian market.
Khachatrian admitted that U.S. economic sanctions re-imposed on Tehran last year could hamper greater trade between Iran and the EEU member states. But he also said: “The sanctions are temporary, while the agreement is long-term.”
Economic issues were high on the agenda of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s talks with Iran’s leaders held in Tehran last week. The two sides pledged to deepen bilateral commercial ties despite the U.S. sanctions.