Germany gets Iran headstart

Berlin - German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel flew to Iran on Sunday as the first top Western official to visit the country since world powers and Tehran reached a historic nuclear deal.



By AFP

Published: Sun 19 Jul 2015, 5:23 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Jul 2015, 1:33 AM

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel flew to Iran on Sunday as the first top Western official to visit the country since world powers and Tehran reached a historic nuclear deal.
Gabriel, who is also Chancellor Angela Merkel's deputy leader and energy minister, embarked on the three-day trip with a "small delegation of representatives from companies, industry groups and the sciences", his ministry said in a statement.
Gabriel is due to hold talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and several ministers following last Tuesday's landmark nuclear agreement.
The long-delayed pact "lays the foundation for normalising economic ties with Iran on the condition that the steps set out in it are now implemented", Gabriel said in the statement.
The head of the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Eric Schweitzer, who is accompanying Gabriel, called the trip "an encouraging sign" for companies barred from doing business with the resources-rich Gulf state due to Western sanctions.
Schweitzer called for German companies to be given legal protection for upcoming investments made in Iran in case Tehran violated the terms of the nuclear deal and a trade embargo were imposed again.
"Such a framework would give companies the necessary legal security to return to Iran," he told DPA news agency.
Iran and Germany were historically close trade partners but business dropped off as a result of the sanctions, declining to ?2.4 billion ($2.6 billion) last year from around ?8 billion in 2003-04, according to German figures.
Schweitzer said bilateral trade could quadruple in the next two to three years to around ?10 billion.
German business leaders have pointed to pent-up demand in modernising Iran's industrial infrastructure, particularly in the oil sector, as presenting lucrative opportunities.
Engineering, chemical, pharmaceutical, car parts and railway companies are all eyeing big contracts.
Iran's oil ministry has announced it intends to attract up to $100 billion of foreign investment to modernise the sector, which has been underdeveloped for a decade.
However, critics called on Gabriel not to lose sight of human rights in the race to rebuild trade ties.


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