By Ali Kushki

Iran’s Foreign Ministry to streamline structure for economic goals  

May 27, 2017

TEHRAN – Encouraged by gains from an international nuclear accord with six world powers, Iran’s Foreign Ministry will revamp its current structure to ensure it can engage more actively in economic activities with the international community. 

The move appears to be a more serious bid by Tehran to facilitate an economic rebound at the wake of the nuclear deal which removed sanctions against Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.  

“Two economic desks in the Foreign Ministry and one in each overseas embassy will be set up,” Tasnim news agency quoted Aboulfazl Hassanbeigi, deputy chairman of the parliamentary national security and foreign policy committee, as saying on Sunday. 

“In line with this, expert staff will be hired, as well.” 

The lawmaker gave no details on when the measures would take place. 

Structural changes in ministries can be initiated in the form of a bill either by the government or parliament.

Iran had already tasked its embassies abroad with an economic role, even before the nuclear deal in 2015.

“From the second half of 2014 up to now, 90 percent of our embassies’ activities in target countries have an economic focus,” Deputy Foreign Minister Morteza Sarmadi was quoted as saying in an economic seminar in April.

“Through soothing security concerns, the Foreign Ministry has the responsibility to lay the groundwork for international business people to invest in Iran,” the top diplomat stated. 

“Economic diplomacy”, as it’s called inside Iran, has been a running theme of speeches and meetings by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

"We are interested in expanding our relations with the EU... and we are open to economic relations even with the U.S.," Zarif told the World Economic Forum in January 2017. 

"While we have our political differences with the U.S., we are not closed to economic relations (with it)."

Stronger economic engagement with the rest of the world is vital for the country to achieve the goals set for its six five-year development plan (2017-2022). 

The plan lets the government arrange up to an average of $30 billion of foreign financing each year, in addition to $15 billion of annual direct foreign investment in Iran, and up to $20 billion of foreign investment conducted with local partners.

This is while, nearly $9.175 billion foreign investment was agreed to enter the country, of which only a third was practically attracted.

Article 105 of the master plan urges stronger presence in international markets and attraction of foreign investment.

It also brings to the fore the necessity of hiring educated trade attachés in countries, with which Iran has highest trade exchanges.  

One key challenge remains to banking ties. Iran still lacks normal international banking ties, as major financial institutions remain circumspect, hampering its reintegration into the global economy and dashing inflated public expectations of rapid economic recovery.

AK/PA 

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