It’s time for the Philippines to discover a new market in the East, according to Iranian officials who promoted their country as an “attractive” place for business.
In a roundtable discussion with editors and reporters of The Manila Times on Wednesday, Iran’s head of Public Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ramin Mehmanparast and Iranian Ambassador to the Philippines Ali Mohammadi said that the Iranian government is very much interested in strengthening its ties with the Philippines, especially in terms of economic and trade.
“The most important item for business is finding the new market. And I think Iran is a very attractive place,” Mehmanparast said. “And inside Iran, we have a very good market. Around Iran, if you would like to explore the market of Iraq, of Afghanistan, market of Central Asian countries, you can use cooperation with Iran.”
Because of the strategic location of the country in the Middle East, Mehmanparast said that Iran can serve as the gateway and trading point to the Central Asian market—including Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan—and even to Russia and the rest of the Europe.
Iran is linked to the Silk Road, the ancient route linking China, the Middle East and Europe, which are now being connected by a railway.
Mehmanparast said Iran can re-export commodities from the Philippines, particularly agricultural products, to its neighbor countries, in the absence of a direct link and trading zone between Central and Southeast Asian countries.
Iran is one of the Philippines’ biggest exporting partners in the Middle Eastern region, next to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. According to a 2011 data by the National Statistical Coordination Board, Iran’s export to the Philippines reached $857,000 while the Philippines’ export to Iran only amounted to $47,102.
Once the trade volume between Iran and the Philippines rises, more jobs will be created to benefit both countries, Mehmanparast said.
He said Iran may also be in need of Filipino engineers and workers as it starts the construction of the Silk Road railway.
Once the railway is finished, it can ship at least 10 million tons of goods per year across China, Middle East, Russia, and Europe.
“From Iran to Turkey and Europe—it is a very important corridor between East and West countries,” Mehmanparast noted. “This corridor is very important and the situation of Iran is at the center.”
Mohammadi said that while Iran is restrained by the economic sanctions by the US, it cannot be stopped from forging stronger economic and cultural ties with other nations such as the Philippines.
“We are very sure that Iranian traders and people’s groups would like to join us [government]in this journey,” Mohommadi said. “I hope that the rigid policies would be over.”
Iran’s oil industry is heavily sanctioned by the US particularly in the 90’s, prohibiting trade to American companies and financial institutions. Iran has suffered tremendous pressure from the US since the Islamic revolution that toppled the Shah—a strong US ally—in 1979.
Iran has the largest oil resources in the world and is the fourth largest crude oil producer worldwide, next to Saudi Arabia.
As the country with the biggest oil reserves, Iran can be the Philippines’ partner in joint ventures in the energy sector, too, Mehmanparast said.