A comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program possibly becoming final by June 30 will open up economic opportunities between Tehran and Manila.
The forecast was made on Friday by Ali Asghar Mohammadi, Iranian ambassador to the Philippines, even as he noted that his country has been heavily affected by economic sanctions imposed on it by the United States and the United Nations.
Mohammadi said 80 percent of bilateral trade between Iran and the Philippines were affected because of the economic sanctions.
In 2011, bilateral trade was close to $1 billion but it went down to below $200 million in 2014 after a decade of sanctions from the US, the European Union and the UN Security Council.
“After the lifting [of the sanctions], we have a very good potentiality between Iran and the Philippines, [especially]in the petrochemical industry. There is a very good future between Iran and the Philippines,” Mohammadi said.
The Philippines used to import crude oil from Iran to supply its energy needs but it stopped doing so in 2012 when sanctions were imposed because of Iran’s nuclear program.
Mohammadi believed that the two countries did not only lose economic opportunities but also “a lot of potentialities” in the diplomatic, technological, people-to-people and tourism industries.
Not all countries in the Asian region lost economic opportunities because of the sanctions on Iran, however.
Mohammadi mentioned that South Korea and Japan, both allies of the United States like the Philippines, were able to put in place measures that ensured continuation of ties with Iran despite the sanctions.
One measure was imposing a two-way sanction on importation of oil, meaning countries importing oil from Iran paid heavy fines.
“The Philippines did not do that. When the sanctions were imposed, you stopped it [importation]rather than go around [and]find a way [out]. It is dependent on how you manage the situation,” Mohammadi said.
He added that other Asian countries were “well-prepared” and had “very skillful diplomatic efforts.”
“Maybe both sides were not prepared. In other countries, we have many mechanisms. In the Philippines, we have not been much successful,” Mohammadi said.
Most Iranian businesses with interests in the Philippines moved to other countries in the region as the Philippines was not able to manage and work around the economic sanctions.
But the ambassador felt there was an imbalance in the relationship between Iran and the Philippines, especially because Manila turned its back against Iran when the sanctions were placed a decade ago.
Iran provided technical assistance to the Philippines when it went through an energy crisis in the 190s and after the EDSA Revolution in the late 1980s.
“You have a very hard time supplying your energy and Iran helped you. We gave you oil. I believe that you can make friendship if you do something, you expect to have the same treatment if you go through a difficult time. Mostly, it’s only a one-way friendship,” Mohammadi said.
In 2010, according tom him, Iran had to pass a policy that it will stop importing fruits, particularly bananas, from the Philippines but it never closed its market to Manila.
The Philippines is known to be a strong US ally in the region while Iran has strongly opposed Washington’s role in the political and economic mantle of the Middle East.
Mohammadi saidthe relationship between the Philippines and the US should not be a “zero-sum game,” and it should allow for the Philippines to have a relationship with Washington and Tehran at the same time.
Iran, the European Union and the foreign ministries of the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, UK and the US) met from March 26 to April 2 and agreed on key parameters of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which will put an end to Iran’s development of nuclear technology.
Iran’s major nuclear facilities will be turned into research institutions, and its Heavy Water
Research Reactor in Arak will be redesigned and rebuilt to stop production of weapons-grade plutonium.
The final agreement is set to be signed on June 30, unless an extension is agreed upon immediately.
Sanctions on Iran are currently suspended but the US Congress is threatening additional ones unless an agreement is signed by June 30 or an extension is agreed upon before that date.
There also seems to be a disconnect between Washington’s plan to lift sanctions in tranches, or while the agreement is being implemented
This could happen months after a possible agreement is signed.
But Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the sanctions must be lifted on the same day the agreement is signed.
Mohammadi backed this statement, saying Iran has proved its commitment to the negotiations and the deal since it has not violated any provision of the sanctions imposed on them by the international community.
He added that these sanctions are a mere creation of a group of countries that are yet to prove their commitment to lifting the sanctions once Iran implements the agreement.