First Published: 2018-02-01

France seeks to keep exports to Iran outside US sanctions
France will finance exports to Iran in move that aims to sidestep US sanctions.
Middle East Online

By Matthieu Protard and Mathieu Rosemain - PARIS

1.5 billion euros worth of exports waiting

France will start offering euro-denominated credits to Iranian buyers of its goods later this year, a move to bolster trade while keeping it outside the reach of US sanctions, the head of state-owned investment bank Bpifrance said.

France and other European countries have been looking to increase trade with Iran since Paris, Washington and other world powers agreed in 2015 to lift many economic sanctions in exchange for controls on Iran's nuclear programme.

The plan is to offer dedicated, euro-denominated export guarantees to Iranian buyers of French goods and services. By structuring the financing through vehicles without any US link, whether to the currency or otherwise, the aim is to avoid the extraterritorial reach of US legislation.

The move could anger US President Donald Trump, who has threatened to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement reached by his predecessor Barack Obama. Washington has maintained some financial restrictions, leaving private banks - even those based outside the United States - wary of financing deals.

"We put a lot of preparation into this in 2017 and we keep on working, every single day, on the conditions of our entrance into Iran," Bpifrance's chief executive Nicolas Dufourcq said on Wednesday, referring to the new loans.

"This is a completely separate flow (of money)," he added. "There is no (US) dollar in this scheme... no one holding a US passport."

There is a pipeline of about 1.5 billion euros in potential contracts from interested French exporters, Dufourcq told lawmakers on Wednesday.


France, which has had close business ties with Iran since before the fall of the Shah in 1979 and still operates several large factories there including Renault and PSA plants, is not alone in Europe in seeking to deepen trade ties.

A French banking source said Italy, Germany, Austria and Belgium were also working on mechanisms that would shield their companies from the risk of US sanctions. It was not immediately clear how closely coordinated the efforts are.

Earlier this month, Italy and Iran agreed a framework credit agreement to fund investments in Iran worth up to 5 billion euros. The accord was signed by Iran's government-owned Bank of Industry and Mine and Middle East Bank, and the investment arm of Italian state-owned holding Invitalia.

The Rome government chose Invitalia over state lender Cassa Depositi And Prestiti (CDP) because, unlike CDP, it has no exposure to US investors and no US footprint.

In October, Trump accused some signatories to the nuclear deal of profiteering from the accord. He later rowed back, saying he had told French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel they could "keep making money" in Iran.

French banks have been severely penalised by US financial authorities for their dealings with Iran before.

BNP Paribas received a $9-billion fine in 2014 for violating US financial sanctions - even though it was imposed before the nuclear agreement was reached.

European aerospace giant Airbus has complained about the banks' wariness, which has cast a shadow over deals linked to rival Boeing.

Dufourcq said French export credits could be offered as soon as May or June.

Bpifrance's total export credits jumped to 186 million euros ($231 million) in 2017 from 30 million euros a year earlier. It plans to more than double the amount to 400 million euros in 2018.


Syria rebels prepare to quit penultimate pocket of Ghouta

Egyptians prepare to vote with Sisi reelection guaranteed

Israel ministers welcome US appointment of 'friend' Bolton

Iran slams US sanctions over hacking scheme

Iraqi widow saved recruits from slaughter by IS

Policeman dead in bombing in Alexandria

Syrians in Manbij fear Turkey, bet on US

Quick victory unlikely in Egypt assault on IS

Sisi, Egypt's undisputed leader and 'father figure'

PKK to quit northwest Iraq after Turkish threat

Iraqi asylum seeker gets life sentence for London bombing

UK says Israeli sentencing of Palestinian teenage girl "emblematic"

Sarkozy vows to clear name in Libya probe

Syria announces second evacuation deal for rebel-held Eastern Ghouta.

Three dead after suspected IS gunman takes hostages in France

170,000 flee violence in Syria's Afrin

Norway proposes bill to ban full-face veils in education

Turkey says EU statements on Cyprus 'unacceptable'

Air strikes hit Ghouta despite rebel ceasefire effort

US approves $1 billion in Saudi defence contracts

Saudi to carry out nuclear power deal with or without US

In world first, flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace

Saudi, US must pursue 'urgent efforts' for Yemen peace: Mattis

US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre

Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Rebels evacuate Syria's Eastern Ghouta

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

Two Hamas security force members killed in raid on bomb suspect

Turkey gives watchdog power to block internet broadcasts

EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s ‘illegal’ actions in Mediterranean

Sarkozy says life ‘living hell’ since corruption allegations

Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007