US exports to Iran soar to 10-year high in 2018 despite own sanctions

The increase in US exports to Iran happens while Washington has imposed two rounds of punitive measures on Tehran and it continues to press Europe to avoid trade with Iran.

9 March 2019
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US exports to Iran hit more than 440 million dollars last year to reach its highest in the last 10 years while bilateral Europe-Iran commerce has taken a dip under reimposed US sanctions.

Latest data by the US Census Bureau shows the country exported 440.5 million dollars worth of goods to Iran in 2018 while it imported 67.9 million dollars from Iran. The US trade balance stood at 372.6 dollars, according to the figures. It’s the highest in the last decade.

A screenshot of data from US Census Bureau showing the country's 2018 and 2017 exports to Iran. (Photo: United States Census Bureau) 

The bilateral trade comes at a time when there aren’t any diplomatic relations between the two and the US itself has reimposed two rounds of sanctions on the country since August 2018. Inspite of those restrictive measures introduced in that month, US exports to Iran surprisingly surged to nearly USD 150 million dollars in August, levels not seen since late 2008, when the Bush administration oversaw the sale of a significant volume of wheat to Iran, pushing monthly exports above USD 100 million for several months, Bourse and Bazaar reported last October. 

Looking into the content of those exports, just over USD 140 million dollars of the August trade is attributable to the sale of American soybeans to Iran, the number one destination for the crop that month. Due to Trump’s trade war, the export of soybeans to China has collapsed 95 percent, making commodities traders eager to offload supply to Iran, the website reported. 

A screenshot of data about US exports to Iran under the last three administrations of Geroge W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump (Photo:

The data also contradict the US policy to pressure the European states to engage in trade with Iran through the newly-created Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX). The issue was brought to attention by Miguel Berger, Director-General for Economic Affairs and Sustainable Development at German Federal Foreign Office.

“US trade with Iran has more than doubled in 2018, highest level in ten years. At the same time European companies are discouraged from trading with Iran,” he criticised in his tweet.

A screenshot of Miguel Berger's tweet 

Berger has been chosen as a member of the Supervisory Board of the INSTEX that was created on the last day of January. The company has been registered at the French Economy Ministry address in Paris. German former banker Per Fishcer has also been chosen to head the firm British Permanent Under-Secretary  and Head of the Diplomatic Service at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also been set to head the Supervisory Board.

Trade between Iran and the 28 European Union member states declined by 66.02% year-on-year to stand at €679.55 million in November 2018, according to Financial Tribune. However, US exports to Iran increased during the same period, rising to nearly 26 million dollars from 11.8 million dollars year on year, US Census Bureau data show. 

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