Iran turns to Asia to counter Western sanctions

April 13, 2011 - 0:0
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran has greatly expanded its trade during the year up to March, turning to Asia to circumvent Western economic sanctions. Iran imported 64.3 billion dollars worth of products, up 15 percent year-on-year, and exported 32.6 billion dollars worth of domestically-manufactured agricultural oil (excluding crude oil) products, customs director Abbas Memarnejad was quoted by Donya-E-Eqtesad newspaper on Monday. Tehran has increased its non-oil exports to Asia by almost 20 percent, which now represents 83 percent of its sales, while Europe, whose purchases have fallen by almost a quarter, only accounted for 13 percent, according to Customs figures. The upward trend also stands true for imports, according to Memarnejad. He said 61 percent of Iranian imports came from Asia, including the Middle East, while Europe was responsible for 34 percent and the American continent for only two percent. Among those European countries whose exports to Iran declined the most were Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Germany and Austria, according to the Iranian customs official. Memarnejad said 85 percent of imports were industrial equipment, materials such as steel, and also gold, which Tehran has drastically imported in recent years to reduce its foreign reserves in Western banks. Only 15 percent of imports were consumer goods, he said. The increase in Iran's trade comes despite tightened United States and European Union sanctions imposed since the summer of 2010 against the Islamic republic, especially targeting its oil sector, due to its disputed nuclear program. But Iran has also increased its petrochemical production and exports of petroleum products, which accounted for 8.6 billion dollars compared to 6.5 billion the previous year, showing an increase of 30 percent, according to figures released by the oil ministry. Traditional products, such as pistachios and carpets, currently constitute a small proportion of Iranian exports, with 556 million dollars worth of carpets and a little more than a billion dollars of pistachios exported last year, according to the figures. In addition to its non-oil exports, Iran sold some 70 billion dollars of crude oil during the past Iranian year, which ended on March 20, according to media reports.