Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (R) meets Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia December 19, 2019
In a further sign of the contraction of Iran’s economy amid long-term problems and US sanctions, Turkey says its exports to the Islamic Republic fell $1.5 billion in 2019.
Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said on Thursday that the decline occurred despite an overall rise in Ankara’s exports by 2%. She said the American sanctions had significantly affected the sales to Iran.
In November 2018, the Trump Administration imposed comprehensive restrictions, including on Iran’s energy and financial sectors. Sanctions waivers for Tehran’s top oil customers, including Turkey, ended in May.
While criticizing the sanctions, the Erdoğan Government has complied with them. Turkey has not imported any crude oil from Iran since June, and its natural gas imports have fallen by one-third.
Several Turkish companies are on an American sanctions blacklist, over allegedly shipping American items to Iran without authorization. State-owned Halkbank is being prosecuted for claimed transactions on Iran’s behalf, permitting Tehran to buy gold with oil and gas revenues.
Several years ago, Turkey and Iran set the goal of $15 billion in trade by 2015 and $30 billion by 2020.
But trade only reached $9.7 billion in 2015. After Iran reached a nuclear agreement with the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia), Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu promised, “Being free of [sanctions] means we can easily surpass our goal of $30 billion.”
However, Turkish-Iranian trade volume never reached $11 billion. The renewed US sanctions under the Trump Administration pushed the level down to $9.3 billion in 2018 and only $4.22 billion in the first half of 2019.