ASTANA – The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Iran signed an agreement Thursday establishing a free trade zone that reduces tariffs on bilateral imports and exports for three years.
“Iran has become a partner of a great economic union. The agreement will bear positive fruit for the whole region,” Iranian Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade Mohammad Shariatmadari said.
The EAEU, made up of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, has previously negotiated free trade agreements with other countries such as Vietnam and China.
Shariatmadari said that his country, which exports $20 billion worth of goods per year, is a good partner for the EAEU and “is interested in the simplification of export procedures, the elimination of trade barriers and the establishment of stable economic and trade relationships.”
The chairman of the board of the Eurasian Economic Commission, Tigran Sargsyan, hailed the agreement signed by Iran and the EAEU, which he portrayed as “the first step toward establishing a new type of economic relationship” between the parties.
“The Iranian market is very large and dynamic and that is why it is so appealing to our business leaders,” he said.
The trade agreement, signed during the Astana Economic Forum, comes at a critical moment, just over a week after the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.
“Of course we are worried, but we have our own economic interests and we will attempt to implement all of the terms of the agreement,” Sargsyan said.
According to Rakhim Oshakbayev, director of the Talap Center and a Kazakh political scientist who specializes in studying the EAEU, “the agreement between Iran and the EAEU was to be expected and is a consequence of the withdrawal of the United States from the Iran deal.”
“I think this is positive and it would mean that the foreign policy of the United States is not completely effective,” he said.
The political scientist, however, believes that it is possible that Kazakhstan might propose adjustments to the agreement with Iran if sanctions were imposed by the administration of US President Donald Trump.
“We have a bilateral relationship and we have signed bilateral agreements, but I think changes are possible because I do not believe that Kazakhstan will go against US policies,” Oshakbayev said.
“Kazakhstan will try to avoid US sanctions. If the United States says that working with these companies will lead to sanctions, we (Kazakhstan) will avoid, in my opinion, working with Iran despite these high-level agreements with the EAEU,” he added.
The trade agreement between Iran and the EAEU follows the central principles of the World Trade Organization.