UK Iranian Embassy Re-Opening Signals Re-Engagement for Trade

3 September 2015

The re-opening of The British Embassy in Tehran is the first step in Britain’s re-engagement with Iran following the nuclear agreement this summer for the country to limit its nuclear programme to purely peaceful ends.

When foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, re-opened the Embassy, which had been closed since it was ransacked and its officials arrested four years ago, he was accompanied by a delegation of leading business people to send the message that a new era of trade can opened between the two countries.

Iran is a large, well-educated and resource-rich economy with a young population keen to re-engage with the world. The media image of a country dominated by ageing theocrats, which was true in the 1980s and 1990s, is now a far cry from the reality of modern Iranian demography.

The momentum, and liberation, provided by the nuclear agreement provides a chance for Iran to build a different kind of security and diplomatic relationship with its Middle East neighbours and the West.

Philip Hammond has said that, as British businesses have endured some of the impact of economic sanctions, they should be well placed to benefit when they are lifted. For this reason his delegation to the Embassy re-opening included senior UK trade experts and representatives from the engineering, architecture, banking and oil and gas sectors.

As sanctions are likely to remain in place into 2016, there are currently no immediate deals to be done but one aim of re-opening the British Embassy is so Britain can start to make the business-to-government connections that could be vital in securing future trading opportunities.

Philip Hammond has said that, so far, Britain has already helped UK businesses establish links with the Iranian oil and trade ministries and with the Central Bank of Iran.

As a series of different sanctions have been placed on Iran by the US and EU for various reasons since the fundamentalist revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 overturned the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, not all are set to be lifted at once as they are not all linked to the nuclear agreement.

However, under the nuclear concord in July, EU members agreed to lift sanctions in finance, banking and insurance; oil and gas; shipping and transport; and other sectors, while also unfreezing the assets of Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran, individuals and other organisations.

The prospect of renewed trade with Iran is being watched closely by overseas trade specialist, Chamber International, which, under its previous name, Chamber Management Services, had a long history of facilitating trade between Iran and the UK until sanctions were imposed.

Work by Chamber Management Services included hosting a visit from a professor at Isfahan University, Dr Ali Sanaie, who presented his paper, “Trade with Iran: Opportunities for Textile and other Industries” to business representatives from throughout Yorkshire.

Before sanctions were introduced, Chamber International also had strong links with the Isfahan Industrial Managers’ Association, Irano-British Chamber of Commerce in Tehran and University of Isfahan.

Although, after the Islamic revolution, the Irano-British Chamber of Commerce was virtually abandoned it was never actually dissolved and Chamber International was quick to get involved when trade links were re-established through the British-Iranian Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber International director, Tim Bailey, says: “These are interesting times with the prospect of renewed trade with Iran. The country has a huge amount to offer UK exporters and we will provide practical guidance on opportunities there as soon as we are able to.”


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Chamber International - UK Iranian Embassy Re-Opening