’50 Swiss companies ready to enter Swiss trade channel for Iran’

Chairman of Iran-Switzerland Joint Chamber of Commerce says 50 major Swiss companies are ready to enter the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) channel which has brought a shipment of cancer drugs to Iran for the first time.

27 July 2020
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Chairman of Iran-Switzerland Joint Chamber of Commerce says 50 major Swiss companies are ready to enter the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) channel which has brought a shipment of cancer drugs to Iran for the first time.

50 major Swiss companies active in food and medicine sectors have requested access to the Swiss humanitarian trade channel, Sharif Nezam-Mafi told the newsroom of the Iran Chamber of Commerce (ICCIMA).

“This means that Swiss companies are fully aware that the sanctions are not going to stay forever and that the upcoming presidential elections in the US could change many things about trade with Iran,” the businessman added.

The government in Bern announced on Monday that a Swiss pharmaceutical company has completed the first transaction under the humanitarian trade channel with Iran.

The Swiss channel to bring food and medicine to Iran started trial operations in January, helping supply Swiss goods to Iran without tripping over US sanctions.

Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) told Reuters by email that a number of companies have already been approved, more companies would follow.

“We would like to emphasize that the operationalization of the SHTA is progressing. Further transactions should be carried out shortly,” the SECO announced.

Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from the sanctions that Washington reimposed on Tehran after President Donald Trump walked away from a 2015 international deal over Iran’s nuclear program.

But the US measures targeting everything from oil sales to shipping and financial activities have deterred several foreign banks from doing business with the Islamic Republic - including humanitarian deals.

Iran’s Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations criticized the arrangement in May saying that it has so far failed to meet Iran’s needs.

The US has forced SHTA to pursue a "very tight and tough procedure" which made it practically very difficult for companies to trade with Iran, Majid Takht Ravanchi said.

"The recent transaction indicates that the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) has been able to inject funds to the Swiss channel, something that was not possible before under Washington pressure," Nezam-Mafi said.

The SECO did not identify the Swiss drugmaker or give a value for the shipment, which it said involved a cancer drug used to treat iron overload caused by repeated blood transfusions.

A February 2020 photo shows Swiss Ambassador to Tehran Markus Leitner’s posing with medicine cartons inscribed with the Swiss flag after their transfer into Iran. Photo: Tasnim

The pilot deal in January shipped to Iran cancer drugs and drugs required for organ transplants worth 2.3 million euros ($2.7 million).

The aim of the SHTA is to ensure that exporters and trading companies in the food, pharmaceutical and medical sectors based in Switzerland have a secure payment channel with a Swiss bank through which payments for their exports to Iran are guaranteed, the Embassy of Switzerland in Iran said in a January statement.

Geneva-based bank BCP and drugmaker Novartis took part in the pilot deal.

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