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Iran begins free trade talks with EAEU bloc

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Flags of Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU)

Iran has stated talks on free trade with an economic bloc of Eurasian countries known as the EAEU more than a year after Tehran clinched a preferential trade agreement with the grouping.

A senior official at Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization (TPO) said on Wednesday that both Iran and the EAEU were eager to remove trade tariffs for nearly 80 percent of the goods they exchange.

“New talks for free trade started in February so that the two side can negotiate about all goods they trade but 20 percent that they have no interest in liberalizing,” said Behrouz Olfat, who serves as TPO’s head of Europe and America office.

Olfat said reaching a free trade deal with the EAEU may take years although he insisted that Iran is determined to clinch the agreement because of the long-term impacts it could have on business and economic activity in the country.

The official added that the two sides have a potential to increase the value of their annual trade to $30 billion from a current figure of $3.5 billion.

Iran reached a preferential trade agreement with the EAEU in October 2019 to reduce tariffs for 883 items of goods. Olfat said the two sides had implemented the new tariff regime on 780 goods.

The EAEU bloc consists of Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan.

Reports have suggested that Armenia is seeking to significantly increase its imports from Iran after a recent war in neighboring Azerbaijan caused Yerevan to impose a six-month ban on products coming from Turkey.

Olfat said trade with Armenia is expected to increase by at least $60 million per year, adding that Iran would invest more to increase its exports of textiles and garment products to Armenia.

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