LONDON, Nov 2 – Trade is growing between Britain and Iran and the government is working to resolve banking sector concerns which are limiting its further expansion, British trade minister Liam Fox said on Wednesday.
Despite the removal of international banking restrictions in January, Tehran has secured ties with only a limited number of smaller banks as U.S. sanctions remain in force and large foreign institutions still fear potential fines.
“Slowly but with increasing enthusiasm, British companies are starting to do business with Iran again … we are seeing the first signs of growing trade between the UK and Iran,” Fox told a City and Financial Global conference in London.
“The banking sector’s ongoing concerns about facilitating payments or providing financial services means that the benefits of sanctions relief are not yet being fully realised, resolving these problems remains a priority for this government.”
Norman Lamont, Britain’s trade envoy to Iran and a former British finance minister, said the deadlock over progress on banking access to Iran was “profoundly unsatisfactory”.
“This is an embarrassing situation … these difficulties only strengthen the critics of (Iranian) President (Hassan) Rouhani,” he told the event.
Fox said the government was working with the banking sector to find “a financial channel solution for Iranian payments”, and that Britain was well placed to help private Iranian banks modernise.
The British government is prioritising opportunities for exporters in sectors such as retail, healthcare, water, advanced manufacturing, mining, airports and aviation, Fox said, and will send a mining sector delegation to Tehran in December.
“Iran does remain, however, a challenging place to do business, and needs to do more to meet international banking standards and instigate reform if it is to enjoy a post-sanctions dividend,” he said.
“UK businesses looking to trade or invest in Iran should be aware of those sanctions that remain in place, trade regulations and export controls, and ensure all trade activity is fully compliant.”