New EU Trade SPV to Keep Iran Afloat After US JCPOA Withdrawal

2019/02/20

By: Danielle Hatch

Recently France, Germany and Britain have started working on a new channel (Special Purpose Vehicle) for non-dollar trade with Iran to avoid the newly re-imposed US sanctions on the country. Last year the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which had offered relief from US sanction on Iran for companies. Once the US left the JCPOA they began to the re-impose the trade sanctions on Iran, not only impacting US entities but also causing secondary sanctions for European entities to deal with, especially if they wanted to continue trade with Iran.

The goal of the re-imposed US sanctions is to encourage Europeans to stop business with Iran because of the threat of losing US business. This is puts European entities in a bit of a pickle because they would prefer to keep JCPOA up and running, without the US. They are working hard to make the deal work after Iran threatened to leave the JCPOA if they are unable to keep receiving economic benefits for their part in the deal. The goal of the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) is to help match Iranian oil and gas exports against purchases of EU goods, the problem is, that it won’t realistically be used for large trade transactions that Iran wants to see. It’s more likely be used for small trade such as humanitarian products or food. A European diplomat explained, “It won’t change things dramatically, but it’s an important political message to Iran to show that we are determined to save JCPOA and also to the United States to show we defend our interests despite their extraterritorial sanctions.”

“We do not expect the SPV will in any way impact our maximum economic pressure campaign,” a US State Department spokeswoman said. “The United States questions the efficacy of the SPV and remains committed to fully enforcing its sanctions,” another senior Trump administration offered.

Unfortunately, as the SPV is still months away from being operational, relations between the European Union and Iran have been strained. The EU recently imposed its first sanctions on Iran since JCPOA after ballistic missile tests and assassination plots were revealed on European soil. The EU added two Iranian individuals and an Iranian intelligence unit to its terrorist list. They are also still deciding if another push for new sanctions on Iran over its missile program will be part of the SPV.

“We are clear; this commitment does not in any way preclude us from addressing Iran’s hostile and destabilizing activities” Jeremy Hunt explained (British Foreign Secretary).

More information: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-japan-iran/other-countries-not-seen-joining-european-iran-trade-mechanism-soon-german-official-idUSKCN1PP195

https://www.reuters.com/article/iran-usa-sanctions-reaction/u-s-sees-no-impact-from-eu-trade-mechanism-for-iran-idUSS8N1ZH05G