Iran signs $778 mil­lion deal with French car com­pany

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY AMIR VAH­DAT AND AYA BATRAWY

TEHRAN | Iran signed the coun­try’s big­gest-ever car deal on Mon­day to build tens of thou­sands of cars an­nu­ally un­der a joint ven­ture with French au­to­mo­bile man­u­fac­turer Groupe Re­nault, buoy­ing its man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try in de­fi­ance of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s moves to iso­late the coun­try.

The $778 mil­lion deal fol­lows the lift­ing of the U.N. and Euro­pean Union sanc­tions af­ter Iran’s 2015 nu­clear agree­ment with world pow­ers to curb its con­tro­ver­sial ura­nium en­rich­ment pro­gram, a pos­si­ble path­way to nu­clear weapons.

It also comes just days af­ter new U.S. sanc­tions on Iran were signed by Pres­i­dent Trump, who spoke with French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron over the week­end about ways to counter Iran’s in­flu­ence in Mideast con­flicts. The U.S. leg­is­la­tion, first passed by Congress, im­poses penal­ties on peo­ple in­volved in Iran’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram and any­one who does busi­ness with them.

The deal also would be a win for re­cently re­elected Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani, who has been un­der pres­sure to show or­di­nary Ira­ni­ans the eco­nomic pay­off from the 2015 nu­clear deal, which curbed Tehran’s sus­pect pro­grams in ex­change for an eas­ing of Iran’s in­ter­na­tional eco­nomic iso­la­tion.

Amer­i­can busi­nesses have been cau­tious about pur­su­ing busi­ness deals with Iran due to U.S. sanc­tions in place not re­lated to the nu­clear pro­gram.

Asian and Euro­pean com­pa­nies, mean­while, have raced for a share of Iran’s siz­able con­sumer mar­ket since in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions were lifted. Iran, with its pop­u­la­tion of 80 mil­lion peo­ple, sits atop the world’s fourth-largest oil re­serves and the sec­ond-big­gest re­serves of nat­u­ral gas. It also has well-es­tab­lished man­u­fac­tur­ing and agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries.

Iran also boasts a young, well-ed­u­cated pop­u­la­tion hun­gry for ac­cess to many global con­sumer mar­kets that have been closed to them for a decade or more.

Just last month, France To­tal SA and state-run China Na­tional Petroleum Cor­po­ra­tion signed a $5 bil­lion agree­ment with Iran to de­velop the coun­try’s mas­sive off­shore nat­u­ral gas field in the first such deal since the land­mark nu­clear deal was struck. Also, Wash­ing­ton granted per­mis­sion to Chicago-based Boe­ing and its Euro­pean com­peti­tor Air­bus to sell bil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of air­craft to Iran in Septem­ber 2016.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Iran signed its big­gest-ever car deal with French multi­na­tional au­to­mo­bile man­u­fac­turer Groupe Re­nault to pro­duce 150,000 cars, be­gin­ning in 2018.

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