German exports to Iran soared by 26 percent in 2016, DIHK says

BERLIN, March 27 (Reuters) - German exports to Iran rose by 26 percent last year and by more than 30 percent in January alone, an economist at Germany’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) said on Monday, as trade between the two countries picks up after sanctions were lifted.

Trade between Germany and Iran was worth 2.9 billion euros in 2016, up from 2.4 billion euros in 2015, data from the Federal Statistics Office showed. Exports of German goods accounted for 2.6 billion euros of that amount.

DIHK foreign trade economist Volker Treier told Reuters he was sticking to the aim of boosting trade in goods between Germany and Iran to 5 billion euros by the end of 2018.

“With these growth rates, that’s certainly achievable,” he said, though he added that a previous prediction of trade volume reaching 10 billion euros within 10 years would probably take longer.

“It’s a stable upswing,” he said. “But it’s not the great success of which we dreamed and of which we are still dreaming.”

Treier said part of the problem was that hardly any major banks want to get involved in projects and business with Iran due to some U.S. sanctions that remain in place. German banks in the United States risk fines by breaching such restrictions.

Another issue is that Iranian banks often do not fulfil international standards, he said.

A 2015 deal between Iran and six major powers restricts Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of international economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

But U.S. President Donald Trump has made clear he wants to take a tough stance against Iran. In February, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 25 individuals and entities in Iran, which it said were just “initial steps” in its effort to counteract what it sees as provocations.

Treier said few German companies were doing business in Iraq, Iran’s war-battered smaller neighbour, and it would take years for many others to do so, adding that the future prospects there were also “meagre”. (Reporting by Gernot Heller; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Gareth Jones)