U.S. Business People Eyeing Investment in Iran

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Iranian President Hassan Rohani gestures as speaks during a session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014.Credit: AP

Iranian President Hassan Rohani's efforts to get the Islamic Republic out of international isolation and ease economic sanctions are starting to bear some fruit. For the first time in decades, American business people are traveling to Iran and meeting with Iranian entrepreneurs to discuss potential collaboration.

According to the Washington Post, since coming into office 10 months ago, Rohani has been promoting foreign investment in Iran, and over the last year, U.S. oil and automaker moguls are thought to have been in talks with their Iranian counterparts.

"An increasing number of Americans, both inside and outside government, understand the value of whetting the appetite of business people in Iran," the report quotes Reza Marashi, research director at the National Iranian American Council, as saying.

Before the EU imposed an oil embargo against Iran and froze assets of its central bank in 2012, trade between Iran and the EU was at 28 billion euro annually, the Irish Times reported. That number has declined to 6 billion euro.

Despite the general drop in Western investment due to such sanctions in recent years, the UN Conference on Trade and Development believes that China, Russia and Turkey are contributing to a rise in direct investment in the country.

Their investment is estimated to have been $5 billion in 2012. There are also countries who try to circumvent trade restrictions through a third country.

Such ad hoc business partnerships could ease diplomatic tensions between Iran and the West, in the absence of a nuclear deal. The next round of talks between the six world powers and Iran on resolving the dispute over Tehran's nuclear program is scheduled for June 16-20 in Vienna.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton held "very long and useful discussions" with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Turkey on Monday and Tuesday on ways of advancing the nuclear talks, Ashton's spokesman Michael Mann said.

The powers want Iran to agree to scale back enrichment and other proliferation-prone nuclear activity and accept tougher UN inspections to deny it any capability of quickly producing atomic bombs, in exchange for an end to economic sanctions.

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