Frus­trated Europe hopes a Clin­ton vic­tory can spur elu­sive Iran deals

Po­lit­i­cal risks still cloud­ing West’s deal with Iran

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Af­ter a year of dis­ap­point­ment, Euro­pean busi­nesses are hop­ing a vic­tory for Hil­lary Clin­ton in the US elec­tion next week may help break the log­jam that has pre­vented large-scale Western in­vest­ments in Iran since the open­ing of its econ­omy. While no one in Europe is pre­dict­ing a flurry of new deals should Clin­ton de­feat her Repub­li­can ri­val Don­ald Trump on Nov 8, a win for the Demo­crat would re­move some of the po­lit­i­cal clouds hang­ing over last year’s nu­clear deal be­tween Iran and world pow­ers. Busi­ness groups say this could help fuel a more ag­gres­sive push into the Ira­nian mar­ket in 2017, es­pe­cially in the sec­ond half of the year, if a Clin­ton vic­tory is fol­lowed by the re-elec­tion of mod­er­ate Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani next May. “If Clin­ton and Rouhani win, then we will have a po­lit­i­cal win­dow of op­por­tu­nity that is much big­ger than we have now,” said Matthieu Etourneau, who ad­vises French firms on the Ira­nian mar­ket for MEDEF In­ter­na­tional, the French em­ploy­ers group. “This is what the Euro­pean banks and com­pa­nies are wait­ing for,” he said.

Back in Jan­uary, when the United States and Europe lifted sanc­tions re­lated to Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram, the ex­cite­ment in Europe’s busi­ness com­mu­nity was pal­pa­ble. With a pop­u­la­tion of 78 mil­lion and an­nual out­put higher than that of Thai­land, Iran was the big­gest econ­omy to re­join the global trad­ing and fi­nan­cial sys­tem since the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union. Euro­pean politi­cians flocked to Tehran with dozens of cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives in tow. Rouhani, a prag­ma­tist elected in 2013 on a plat­form to re­duce Iran’s iso­la­tion, trav­elled to Paris and Rome to pro­mote his coun­try to ea­ger in­vestors. But within months the eupho­ria had van­ished, re­placed by frus­tra­tion on both sides.

Big­gest ob­sta­cle

The big­gest ob­sta­cle for Euro­pean firms seek­ing to do busi­ness in Iran has been the re­luc­tance of the con­ti­nent’s largest banks to fi­nance deals out of fear they could run afoul of U.S. sanc­tions and in­cur mas­sive penal­ties down the line. The United States has taken steps to re­as­sure the banks. Last month the Trea­sury Depart­ment’s Of­fice of For­eign As­sets Con­trol (OFAC) is­sued new guid­ance to al­lay con­cerns about do­ing US dol­lar trans­ac­tions with Iran. But Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry ac­knowl­edged at a think-tank event in Lon­don this week that banks re­mained skit­tish. Ger­man of­fi­cials raised their con­cerns about the hur­dles dur­ing a re­cent visit by US sanc­tions co­or­di­na­tor Daniel Fried. This cau­tion is likely to per­sist, re­gard­less of who is sit­ting in the White House. — Reuters

NEW YORK: US Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton boards her cam­paign plane at the Westch­ester County Air­port in White Plains yes­ter­day. With one week to go un­til Elec­tion Day, Hil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump were barn­storm­ing bat­tle­ground states yes­ter­day, as the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee tried to pivot away from at­tacks on her pro­tec­tion of US se­crets. — AFP

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