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Hopes remain for Iran-Europe trade, despite Trump’s sanctions

Mena / 10-05-18 / by

Experts remain optimistic about the future of Iran-Europe trade despite Donald Trump’s decision to reimpose US sanctions on Iran. Some suspect that hopes for a return to normal banking relations had been dashed long before the US president’s announcement.

It was no great surprise when Trump announced this week that he would pull the US out of the Iranian nuclear deal. After all, on his campaign trail, he had called it everything from “disastrous” to “the worst deal ever negotiated” and has repeatedly said that dismantling it would be his “number one priority”.

Nevertheless, his announcement has caused huge concern for the stability of the Middle East region, as well as for those businesses all over the world that took the lead in entering the Iranian market after the nuclear deal – officially known as the Joint Co-operative Plan of Action (JCPOA) – was agreed between Iran and China, France, Russia, the UK, US and EU in 2015.

“We had multiple calls from board level in the first hour seeking detailed advice,” says Chris Parker, CEO of Iran Business Hub, a UK-based consultancy. “This new move means Iran trade is a significantly higher risk to all corporations globally. Business has to now tread an even narrower tightrope if they wish to conduct trade across the international community.”

In his speech, Trump repeated his harsh rhetoric towards the JCPOA, calling it “a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made”, before announcing that the US will be instituting “the highest level” of economic sanctions against Iran.

Those already conducting activities in the Middle Eastern country will now be given three to six months to “wind down” those activities, or they “risk severe consequences”, the White House said in a statement following the president’s announcement.

Meanwhile, other experts have a more optimistic take on the news. “I think this is the best outcome that Iran could have hoped for because it eliminates the uncertainty. That was the worst situation, when investors, politicians and so on just didn’t know where the US stood, and it created a cloud of confusion and uncertainty,” says Parham Gohari, co-founder and head of consulting at Frontier Partners, which advises corporations on investments in the Iranian market.

“So now it’s clear where the US stands and it becomes easier to make decisions.”


Banking business as usual?

The announcement effectively brings the US back to its sanctions regime pre-2016, before the JCPOA was officially implemented. New sanctions will not only prohibit US persons or companies from conducting any trade or investment in Iran (in fact most of those sanctions were already in place under the JCPOA), but will also punish any non-US firms engaging with both the US and Iran, through secondary sanctions.

“These sharp regulatory changes will certainly affect a range of US and non-US companies, particularly but not exclusively in the commercial aircraft industry and its supply chain, in banking and finance and in the energy sector,” says Nelson Dong, senior partner at law firm Dorsey & Whitney. He says the US could decide to revoke the OFAC specific licenses that had already been issued to Boeing and Airbus in late 2016.

According to Janet Kim, a Washington DC-based partner at Baker McKenzie, the US government will likely reinclude the approximately 400 Iranian companies and individuals on its sanctions list (also known as the specially designated nationals/SDN list) that had originally been removed as part of the JCPOA.

“This will be a huge headache for companies as many of the formerly blacklisted companies and individuals are very active commercially, and many of them are Iranian banks that handle the cross-border flow of funds. In order for companies to get their money out of Iran or be paid by the Iranians, they have to use one of these banks.”

But for many banks and trade financiers in Europe, the news will bring little change to their business, given that most of them have not had any engagement with the Iranian market at all – even under the JCPOA.

“Many of the world’s largest banks have already been operating as if they were in the pre-JCPOA days, so the practical impact for them might actually not be so significant,” Kim says.

The cautious approach of European banks to re-establish links with Iran has, to a large extent, to do with the US sanctions that remained in place under the JCPOA. In effect, trade finance and the movement of money across Iran’s borders remained a huge challenge to achieving the trade boom that it was hoped the nuclear deal would deliver.

But there have been some attempts. Last year, Austria’s Oberbank and Denmark’s Danske Bank each entered into framework agreements with a number of Iranian banks to provide financing for Austrian and Danish companies exporting to Iran. They were reportedly the first European banks to sign such agreements in the country. France’s Bpifrance also said it was planning to provide up to €500mn in buyer’s credit for Iranian companies importing from France, starting this year. The moves were considered of huge symbolic significance, and it was hoped that other European banks would follow suit.

GTR contacted all three banks to ask where Trump’s new announcement leaves their plans.

Danske Bank responded to say that it had decided “months ago” to phase out its engagement related to Iran because the “operational and reputational risks associated with doing business in Iran have increased”, explained Kenni Leth, group press officer at the bank. Trump’s announcement, it seems, will not have any kind of impact on its operations.

“This decision was taken also on the basis of the somewhat more negative attitude from the US administration towards Iran. We want to make sure that we under no circumstances are in conflict with international sanctions towards Iran,” Leth said.

While Oberbank did not wish to comment on Trump’s announcement, it had previously confirmed to GTR that its framework for export finance projects in Iran was put “on hold” until the bank had received further “clarification from the US in order to get a clear view for the future”.


European reactions

Despite the gloomy forecasts from commentators around the world, Gohari at Frontier Partners is “cautiously optimistic” about the future of Europe-Iran trade, saying that companies and banks with minimal exposure to the US will be able to continue their efforts – and in an even stronger market position than before.

“There are quite a number of small or niche banks that are very well protected and they don’t have any US interest or business. I think they will continue to do business with Iran, I don’t necessarily see that as being a challenge moving forward. But in terms of the tier 1, big international banks, without a doubt, they will not be entering the Iranian marketplace anytime soon.”

While Trump has thus far shown little mercy towards the non-US companies that have entered Iran under the JCPOA, it is still unclear what penalties they will face from the White House should they continue their operations there.

Gohari is hopeful that the US will protect investments that companies have already made under the nuclear deal, pointing to the fact it was the US’ decision to breach its commitments. “A number of companies have already entered the Iranian marketplace in the last three years, so hopefully they will not be penalised.”

This includes the likes of Renault, Siemens, Vodafone and Total, who have made billions of dollars-worth of investments in Iran.

In an interview in March, as reported by Reuters, Total’s CEO Patrick Pouyanne said the firm would seek a waiver from the US authorities should Trump pull out of the JCPOA. It came after the French energy giant signed a billion-dollar contract last year to help develop the South Pars gas field, making it Iran’s first deal with a European oil company in more than a decade.

Experts also point to the fact that the remaining signatories could keep the JCPOA in force if they have the political will to do so.

Kim at Baker McKenzie, for one, says the next big question is what other governments, particularly European countries that are part of the JCPOA – France, Germany and the UK – which have stated their intentions to uphold the agreement, will do to help companies that want to keep working with Iran.

“European governments may urge their companies not to pull out of Iran, but companies will want to know what their governments can do to protect them from secondary sanctions by the US. SDN designations – and the threat of them – are a very powerful weapon,” she says.

A counter-reaction would not be unprecedented. In 1996, when the US imposed some of its first sanctions against Iran, the EU adopted a blocking statute that made it illegal for any EU company or person to comply with those US sanctions. Europe could do that again.

For now, Trump’s ‘allies’ in Europe are in favour of holding up their side of the deal.

Federica Mogherini, the high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, reacted to Trump’s announcement, stating: “The European Union is determined to act in accordance with its security interests and to protect its economic investments. The nuclear deal with Iran is the culmination of 12 years of diplomacy. It belongs to the entire international community. It has been working and is delivering on its goal.”

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This Privacy Policy outlines the information we may collect about you in relation to your use of our websites, events, related publications and services (“personal data”) and how we may use that personal data. It also outlines the methods by which we and our service providers may (subject to necessary consents) monitor your online behaviour to deliver customised advertisements, marketing materials and other tailored services. This Privacy Policy also tells you how you can verify the accuracy of your personal data and how you can request that we delete or update it.

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Who are we?

Established in 2002 and with offices in London and Singapore, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd is the world’s leading trade and trade finance media company, offering information, news, events and services for companies and individuals involved in global trade.

Our principal business activities are:

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We collect certain personal data from you, which you give to us when using our Site and/or registering or subscribing for our products and services. However, we also give you the option to access our Sites’ home pages without subscribing or registering or disclosing your personal data.

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We obtain information about you when you use our website, for example, when you contact us about products and services, when you register for an event, register to receive eNewsletters, subscribe or register for a trial to our GTR magazine/website.

 Types of Personal Data Held and its Use

1.      Customer Services and Administration

On some Sites, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd collects personal data such as your name, job title, department, company, e-mail, phone, work and/or home address, in order to register you for access to certain content, subscriptions and events. In addition, we may also store information including IP address and page analytics, including information regarding what pages are accessed, by whom and when.

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2.      Monitoring use of our Sites

Where, as part of our Site services, we enable you to post information or materials on our Site, we may access and monitor any information which you upload or input, including in any password-protected sections. Subject to any necessary consents, we also monitor and/or record the different Sites you visit and actions taken on those Sites, e.g. content viewed or searched for. If you are a registered user (e.g. a subscriber or taking a trial), when you log on, this places a cookie on your machine. This enables your access to content and services that

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Please see paragraph 5 below for more information on cookies and similar technologies and a link to a page where you can turn them on or off.

3.      Marketing

Some of your personal data collected under paragraphs 1 and 2 above may be used by us to contact you by e-mail, telephone and/or post for sending information or promotional material on our products and/or services and/or those of our other group companies.
We give you the opportunity to opt-out of receiving marketing communications. Further detail can be found on the applicable Site and in the footer of each marketing communication sent by us, our group companies or service providers. See also “Consents and opt-outs” section below.
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4.      Profiling

We may analyse your personal information to create a profile of your interests and preferences so that we can contact you with information relevant to you.

5.      Cookies and similar technologies

All our Sites use cookies and similar technical tools to collect information about your access to the Site and the services we provide.

What is a cookie?

When you enter some sites, your computer will be issued with a cookie. Cookies are text files that identify your computer to servers. Cookies in themselves do not identify the individual user, just the computer used.

Many sites do this whenever a user visits their site in order to track traffic flows, recording those areas of the site that have been visited by the computer in question, and for how long.

Users have the opportunity to set their computers to accept all cookies, to notify them when a cookie is issued, or not to receive cookies at any time. Selecting not to receive means that certain personalised services Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd offers cannot then be provided to that user.


Why do we use cookies?

  1. Log In – Where we provide log in mechanisms for site users a cookie is created at login and for the duration of the session. Each cookie contains a unique reference number only (no personal information) which is used to confirm you are authorised.
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  • record activity on our Sites so that we understand how you use our Sites enabling us to better tailor our content, services and marketing to your needs;
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  • gather information about the pages on the Site that you visit, and other information about other websites that you visit, so as to place you in a “market segment”. This information is only collected by reference to the IP address that you are using, but does include information about the county and city you are in, together with the name of your internet service provider.

Most web browsers automatically accept cookies but, if you prefer, you can change your browser to prevent that, or to notify you each time a cookie is set. You can also learn more about cookies in general by visiting which includes additional useful information on cookies and how to block cookies using different types of browser. Please note however, that by blocking, deleting or turning off cookies used on the Site you may not be able to take full advantage of the Site.

6.      E-mail tracking

E-mail tracking is a method for monitoring the e-mail delivery to those subscribers who have opted-in to receive marketing e-mails from GTR, including GTR Africa, GTR Asia, GTR Americas, GTR Europe, GTR Mena, GTR eNews, Third party e-mails and GTR Ventures.

Why do we track e-mails?

So that we can better understand our users’ needs, we track responses, subscription behaviour and engagement to our e-mails – for example, to see which links are the most popular in newsletters. They enable us to understand the consumers journey through metrics including open rate, click-through rate, bounces and unsubscribes. Any other purposes for which Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd wishes to use your personal data will be notified to you and your personal data will not be used for any such purpose without obtaining your prior consent.

How do you track GTR eNewsletters?

To do this, we use pixel GIFs, also known as “pixel tags” – these are small image files that are placed within the body of our e-mail messages. When that image is downloaded from our web servers, the e-mail is recorded as being opened. By using some form of digitally time-stamped record to reveal the exact time and date that an e-mail was received or opened, as well the IP address of the recipient.

7.      Consents and opt-outs

You can give your consent to opt-out of all or any particular uses of your data as indicated above by:

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To turn cookies and similar technologies on and off, see the information in paragraph 5 above. Any questions regarding consents and opt-outs should be sent by e-mail to or by writing to Data Protection Officer at, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd, 4 Hillgate Place, London, SW12 9ER, United Kingdom. Alternatively, you can telephone our London headquarters at +44 (0) 20 8673 9666.

8.      Disclosures

Information collected at one Site may be shared between Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd and other group companies for the purposes listed above.

We may transfer, sell or assign any of the information described in this policy to third parties as a result of a sale, merger, consolidation, change of control, transfer of assets or reorganisation of our business.

9.      Public forums, message boards and blogs

Some of our Sites may have a message board, blogs or other facilities for user generated content available and users can participate in these facilities. Any information that is disclosed in these areas becomes public information and you should always be careful when deciding to disclose your personal information.

10.  Data outside the EEA

Services on the Internet are accessible globally so collection and transmission of personal data is not always limited to one country. Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd may transfer your personal data, for the above-listed purposes to other third parties, which may be located outside the European Economic Area and/or with a different level of personal data protection. However, when conducting transfers, we take all necessary steps to ensure that your data is treated reasonably, securely and in accordance with this Privacy Statement.

Who has access to your information?

Confidentiality and Security of Your Personal Data

We are committed to keeping the data you provide us secure and will take reasonable precautions to protect your personal data from loss, misuse or alteration.

However, the transmission of information via the internet is not completely secure. Although we will do our best to protect your personal data, we cannot guarantee the security of your data transmitted to our Site; any transmission is at your own risk. Once we have received your information, we will use strict procedures and security features described above to try to prevent unauthorised access.

We have implemented information security policies, rules and technical measures to protect the personal data that we have under our control from:

  • unauthorised access
  • improper use or disclosure
  • unauthorised modification
  • unlawful destruction or accidental loss

All our employees, contractors and data processors (i.e. those who process your personal data on our behalf, for the purposes listed above), who have access to, and are associated with the processing of your personal data, are obliged to keep the information confidential and not use it for any other purpose than to carry out the services they are performing for us.


Everyone who works for or with Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd has some responsibility for ensuring data is collected, stored and handled appropriately. Each team handling personal data must ensure that it is handled and processed in line with this policy and data protection principles. However, the following people have key areas of responsibility. The board of directors is ultimately responsible for ensuring that Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd meets its legal obligations.

Name of Data Controller

The Data Controller is Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd. Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd is subject to the UK Data Protection Act 1998 and is registered in the UK with the Information Commissioner`s Office.

How to access, update and erase your personal information

If you wish to know whether we are keeping personal data about you, or if you have an enquiry about our privacy policy or your personal data held by us, in relation to any of the Sites, you can contact the Data Protection Officer via:

  • By writing to this address: Data Protection Officer, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd, 4 Hillgate Place, London, SW12 9ER, UK
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 20 8673 9666
  • E-mail:

Upon request, we will provide you with a readable copy of the personal data which we keep about you. We may require proof of your identity and may charge a small fee (not exceeding the statutory maximum fee that can be charged) to cover administration and postage.

Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd allows you to challenge the data that we hold about you and, where appropriate in accordance with applicable laws, you may have your personal information:

  • erased
  • rectified or amended
  • completed

Disclosing data for other reasons

In certain circumstances, the Data Protection Act allows personal data to be disclosed to law enforcement agencies without the consent of the data subject. Under these circumstances, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd, will disclose requested data. However, the Data Controller will ensure the request is legitimate, seeking assistance from the board and from the company’s legal advisors where necessary.

Changes to this Privacy Statement

We will occasionally update this Privacy Statement to reflect new legislation or industry practice, group company changes and customer feedback. We encourage you to review this Privacy Statement periodically to be informed of how we are protecting your personal data.

Providing information

Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd aims to ensure that individuals are aware that their data is being processed, and that they understand.

  • How the data is being used
  • How to exercise their rights

To this end, the company has a privacy statement, setting out how data relating to individuals is used by the company. This is available on request and available on the company’s website.

Review of this policy

We keep this Policy under regular review. This Privacy Statement was last updated in April 2018.