Swiss SHTA more viable than EU, South Korea channels for trade with Iran: Businessman

The trade channel between Iran and Switzerland, known as the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Agreement (SHTA), is expected to be more viable than its counterparts in the EU and South Korea and function even after a possible change of government in United States next year, head of the Iran-Switzerland Joint Chamber of Commerce said.

8 September 2020
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The trade channel between Iran and Switzerland, known as the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Agreement (SHTA), is expected to be more viable than its counterparts in the EU and South Korea and function even after a possible change of government in United States next year, head of the Iran-Switzerland Joint Chamber of Commerce said. 

Sharif Nezam-Mafi recalled the arduous process of launching SHTA, saying the trade channel will remain relevant irrespective of the next incumbent in the White House.

SHTA became operational in January with the aim of helping Iran import food and medicine from Switzerland without falling foul of US economic sanctions.

“In technical terms the SHTA is prepared. It has handled some transactions and companies have been instructed to work with this channel while training courses are being held,” he said talking to Iran Chamber of Commerce newsroom.

On the merits of SHTA, Nezam-Mafi said it is not susceptible to restrictions announced by the Financial Action Task Force, the international anti-money laundering watchdog.

The global watchdog on Feb 21 put Iran on its blacklist after Tehran failed to comply with its anti-terrorism funding norms. 

In addition, two Iranian private banks, namely the Middle East Bank and Saman Bank are allowed to handle transactions within the SHTA framework, he said.

Although Washington claims that humanitarian goods are “exempt” from the tough penalties, banking, insurance and shipping restrictions have practically made trade with Iran impossible. 

“It seems that Swiss companies are geared up for post- Trump and his ‘post-maximum pressure’ policy.  I believe Switzerland has always been at the forefront of being present in Iran, both during the [enforcement] of the nuclear agreement and after the US walked away.”

Drawing parallels between SHTA and similar trade channels in the EU and South Korea, known as Instrument in Support of Trade Exchange (INSTEX) and the Korean Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (KOHTA), he said INSTEX and KOHTA were never fully operational.

Nezam-Mafi ascribed the relative success of SHTA to “the apolitical approach of the Swiss” adding that he expected further transactions form the channel in the future. 

INSTEX was set up in January 2019 by France, Germany and Britain, designed to evade US sanctions, facilitate trade between Iran and the European Union and other third parties to help keep the nuclear agreement alive. But for all practical purposes it has fallen on the wayside.

KOHTA is being established by the South Korean government, after consultations with the US, in order to handle humanitarian trade between Iran and South Korea.

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