UK’s trade envoy: British government remains committed to nuclear deal

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Lord Norman Lamont, UK’s trade envoy to Iran says that British government remains committed to JCPOA should Donald Trump, the new US elected president act in a hostile manner.

In an interview with IRNA in London and responding to a question on what sort of impact would Donald Trump’s election as the next US president, haa on trade relationship between Iran and Britain, the British official said, ‘I would not jump to conclusion too quickly. I am not entirely convinced that Mr. Trump is as hostile to the JCPOA as some of his remarks have indicated.

‘He made different observation at different times. On one occasion recently he said if Iran was a stock, it would be a buy because it is going up 500 times. i.e. He thought Iran had a very good future.

‘On another occasion he was specifically about the JCPOA and he replied that he has made his money by enforcing agreement so he would make sure that Iran stuck to the agreement.

‘I know he said other things in contrary. I am not of the view that he will start off being hostile to it.

‘What happens will also depend on who will be the secretary of state and it will also depend on the Congress, will president Trump veto attempts by Congress to scrap the agreement. There is a degree of uncertainty but I hope common sense will prevail.’

To a question on what sort of horizon he could imagine for British Iranian trade relationship regarding Trump’s hostile attitude towards JCPOA, Lord Lamont said,’ I don’t think he will tear JCPOA, but he is not going to help to solve the problems that exist with banking. These problems are solvable gradually over time.

‘Unless president Trump decides to take an immediate step backwards, I think the pressure would be to find solutions to these issues.

‘It is easy to be pessimistic, but I am not convinced Mr. Trump will be quite as negative as we fear.’

When asked what Britain would do if Donald Trump embarks on a hostile path towards Iran, the British official said,’ I think Britain upholds the JCPOA unless there was a violation by Iran and there is absolutely no sign of that. I think Britain will stick to the JCPOA.’

On Britain and US relations during Trump, Lord Lamont said,’ I think the British position will be the European position for the next two years.

‘I think Europe and Britain will stick together and I want to see sanctions relaxed.’

Commenting on what Britain’s position would be if Washington wishes to be hostile against Iran, he said,’ I don’t think Iran should try to drive a wedge between the European and Americans when that necessarily happens. It is far too early to answer that specific question.’

Why Britain isbehind other European companies, Lord Lamont opined, ‘I think we are behind. But that is partly because during the period of sanctions, Britsh trade fell much more than the other competitor countries.

‘Our trader with Iran was always much less than Germany or France anyway,
the sectors that the UK is particularly strong is oil, gas and infrastructure which take a long time to get going. But I think it will gradually move.’

On what sort of challenges British companies are facing, he said, ‘We have two challenges: one is the visa situation which is tied up in the UK with the issue of over-stayers here parallel to the India situation and of course the new prime minister comes from a home office background so she is very fixated on the issue of people who shouldn’t be here being here.

‘The issue for business is visa as a consequence and we got to find a way around that.

‘The other issue is banking boycott, which is the product of the position of America and fear of UK banks and American banks in the UK.

‘But I think competition is a very good way to putting the squeeze on other people and I think it will gradually move.’

Aked what is the main concern for major banks to resume their function with Iran, despite the fact that ‘John Kerry’ insisting that US will not penalize them if they work under the framework published by OFAC, the British official said,’ This is because of the psychology of the banks. I think the banks are worried as to what extent Mr. Kerry even before Mr. Trump was elected could speak for judicial Department of Justice, the Treasury, prosecutors in the US and now of course with Trump being elected there is additional uncertainty.

‘Some UK banks have said to me that they felt America has been talking with a forked tongue, that is to say Mr. Kerry, I am sure sincerely he’s been saying what he is been saying, but the US Department of Treasury has been more hardline.

‘Iran has behaved with great restraint with regards to sanctions and I hope they will have more patience until we see what Mr. Trump is going to get up to. I and a lot of people in Britain want that the deal to survive to develop.’

And finally what the outlook for Trade relationship between Iran and Britain would be after Brexit, Norman said, ‘One of the concepts behind Brexit is that Britain should diversify its trade. British trade with Europe has been declining. It maybe our most important market; in the 1990s, 60 percent of our exports went to Europe, today it is 43 percent.

‘One of the ideas behind Brexit is that we should indeed diversify our trade away from Europe more to Asia including central Asia. Iran would fit in that category, although Iran not been a WTO member, we cannot really have a trade agreement at this stage with Iran, but the hope would be that we would pay more attention to Iran.’

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