YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has accepted an Armenian proposal to explore the possibility of seeking a free trade agreement with Iran, a senior official in Yerevan revealed on Thursday.
Armenia and Iran have for years discussed ways of removing or at least reducing tariff barriers in bilateral trade. Armenia is no longer allowed to negotiate bilateral free-trade deals due to its membership in the EEU, effective from January 2015. It can enter into such arrangements only together with Russia and the three other ex-Soviet members of the bloc.
“About three months ago, we formally appealed to the Eurasian Economic Commission and all member states, proposing the start of a process of creating a more liberal trade regime between the EEU and Iran,” Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian told journalists. He linked the proposal with Iran’s landmark nuclear agreement with the United States and other world powers envisaging a gradual lifting of international sanctions against Tehran.
Kocharian said that the EEU’s executive body and member states agreed to set up a task force that will weigh potential economic benefits and risks of free trade with the Islamic Republic. “Iran has always shown an interest in this matter,” he stressed.
Yerevan’s initiative is clearly motivated by a desire to facilitate Armenian manufacturers’ access to the vast Iranian market that has long been protected by very high import duties.
According to official statistics, Armenia’s trade with Iran stood at a relatively modest $291 million last year. Armenian imports of Iranian goods accounted for 70 percent of that figure.