Background

U.S. and European officials issued a statement May 19 seeking to assuage the concerns of those still hesitant to do business with Iran because of disparities in the relaxation of economic sanctions against that country.

According to the statement, under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action the U.S. and the European Union lifted economic and financial nuclear-related sanctions on Iran as of Jan. 16 in exchange for Iran’s significant curtailment of its nuclear program. All parties also pledged to take steps to ensure Iran’s access in areas of trade, technology, finance and energy.

These changes provide “extensive economic opportunities” for companies and financial institutions in Europe and around the world to do business in Iran, according to the statement, and both the EU and its member states are exploring possible areas of cooperation with Iran, including the use of export credits to facilitate trade, project financing and investment in Iran. However, European banks and businesses that also operate in the U.S. worry that they could be penalized for doing business in Iran under remaining non-nuclear U.S. sanctions against that country.

The statement therefore asserts that the U.S., the EU, France, Germany and the United Kingdom “will not stand in the way of permitted business activity with Iran” or “international firms or financial institutions’ engaging with Iran, as long as they follow all applicable laws.” To further facilitate this activity the governments of these entities have provided extensive guidance on the scope of sanctions lifted and those that remain in place and say they will continue to do so. Businesses are encouraged to approach these governments with any additional sanctions-related questions or concerns about doing business in Iran rather than forgo opportunities due to misperceptions or lack of information.

The statement also points out that there are “factors within Iran’s control that have influenced companies’ decision-making and hindered Iran’s economic progress” and therefore encourages Iran to “take steps to create an environment conducive to international investment.”

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