Iran top banker visits US, complains of sanctions
OREANDA-NEWS. The lifting of the nuclear-related sanctions has done "almost nothing" to reintegrate Iran in the global financial system, Iran Central Bank governor Valiollah Seif said today in Washington.
"It was our expectation that after the nuclear deal Iran would be connected to the international economic system but it is not the case," Seif said during a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations. Iran has difficulty accessing its foreign currency reserves frozen as a result of the nuclear-related sanctions, he said. "Our partners have not honored their obligations."
Seif, the highest-ranking Iranian official to visit Washington in decades, is attending the IMF and World Bank spring meetings.
The US and other major powers, which negotiated a deal forcing Iran to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions, promised to enable the Iranian banking system to function normally. The lifting of nuclear-related sanctions allowed Iran to resume sales of crude oil in international markets and to access its currency reserves frozen in foreign banks.
The US Treasury says it is working with foreign regulators and banks, as well as with Iran, to ensure that Iran can access its funds abroad. Iran appreciates the actions that the US Treasury has taken, including guidelines for companies and meetings with foreign companies interested in doing business with Iran, but those measures have proven insufficient, Seif said.
The US has designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism and maintains a sanctions regime that prevents US companies from doing business in Iran. The Treasury does not plan to allow direct access to the US financial system for Iran. But US president Barack Obama has said that Iran can work with European and other banks to access the global financial networks.
The European banks do not have the courage to work with Iran because of the financial penalties the US has imposed in the past, Seif said.
Obama on 1 April said that sanctions were not the only factor preventing foreign companies and banks from doing business in Iran. Iran's tests of ballistic missiles and shipments of weapons to armed groups in the Middle East heighten the perception of Iran's geopolitical risk for businesses and Iran has to adjust its behavior, Obama said.
Seif today waved off the concerns, saying "our partners were fully aware of our conduct before the nuclear deal was signed. They signed it in any case, just for us to deliver our commitments." Iran has fully delivered on its commitments under the nuclear deal but the US has not, he said.
The US needs to do more to enable Iran to reintegrate in the global economy, he said. "If it means more contacts with banks, if it means changes to regulations to allow access, allow u-turn [transactions], they need to do that." The so-called "u-turn transactions" are US dollar transactions by foreign banks on behalf of Iranian institutions that are indirectly processed through a US bank. The US Treasury has banned such deals since November 2008 and says it is not considering lifting the ban.
Any relaxation of sanctions on Iran without a reciprocal major concession will be politically difficult for the Obama administration, which has had to overcome serious bipartisan opposition to push through the nuclear deal. US secretary of state John Kerry has said the US and its Arab partners in the Mideast Gulf could work out a "new arrangement" to find a peaceful solution to Iran's ballistic missile tests and its involvement in Yemen and Syria. Iran should give proof of its intentions by supporting peace talks in Yemen, Kerry said.
Iran since the relief of the nuclear-related sanctions managed to increase crude oil production by 290,000 b/d to 3.15mn b/d in March. Around 300,000-500,000 b/d of Iranian production has returned to the market, trading firms say.
Iran is better placed than its neighbors to overcome the negative effect of the fall in oil prices, Seif said. Iran under the leadership of president Hassan Rohani pushed through economic reforms and cut the inflation rate by half to 20pc despite falling oil revenue, Seif said.