United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Iran’s trade with major powers increasing, despite sanctions

Semira N. Nikou

     Trade between Iran and the world’s six major powers increased well into 2010, despite international sanctions and tough financial restrictions, according to International Monetary Fund figures and individual foreign ministries. Countries now negotiating with Iran include the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. The biggest increases were in goods imported from Iran. Five of the six powers now negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program imported more from Iran than they exported.
 
      U.S. imports from Iran increased by around six percent in the first half of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009, while American exports to Iran —mainly foodstuffs, medical goods, education materials exempted from sanctions—decreased by 26 percent. Britain had the largest percentage increase in imports from Iran during the same period, up 203 percent. Germany had the second largest percentage increase in imports, up 97 percent.  
 
      European trade with Iran increased partly because companies were wrapping up contracts before new European Union sanctions in July, said German analyst Walter Posch. Trade data from the IMF and foreign ministries can differ for diverse reasons. The IMF sometimes looks at different or a broader range of sources. Other factors affecting data:
  • Imports and exports recorded by one source but not by others.
  • Tax evasion and smuggling.
  • Exchange rate differentials, particularly when rates are volatile.
  • Classification differences of goods.
 
International Monetary Fund (IMF) in millions of dollars (rounded off)
Iran exports to:
(in millions)
2009
Q1
2009
Q2
2009
Annual
2010
Q1
2010
Q2
Change from 2009-10
(Q1+Q2)
United States
$17
$14
$63
$19
$14
+6%
European Union
$1,712
 
$2,224
$10,798
$3,161
$3,944
+81%
Britain
$10
$64
$303
$89
 
$135
+203%
Germany
$84
$66
$634
$173
 
$122
+97%
France
$215
$268
$1,282
$171
 
$286
–5%
Russia
$52
$45
$193
$64
$57
+25%
China (Mainland)
$2,318
$3,380
$12,021
$3,476
$3,751
+27%
China (Hong Kong)
$32
$18
$142
$59
$20
+58%
 
Iran imports from:
(in millions)
2009
Q1
2009
Q2
2009
Annual
2010
Q1
2010
Q2
Change from  2009-10
(Q1+Q2)
United States
$66
$89
$310
$81
 
$33
–26%
European Union
 
$2,946
$3,357
$16,022
$3,452
$3,434
+9%
Britain
$161
$159
$636
$112
$118
–28%
 
Germany
$1,153
$1,355
$5,825
$1,335
$1,253
+3%
France
$563
$577
$2,113
$646
$671
+16%
 
Russia
$745
$650
$3,043
$930
$812
+25%
China (Mainland)
 
$1,814
$1,926
$8,716
$2,618
$2,929
+48%
China (Hong Kong)
$21
$25
$111
$34
$39
+59%
 
United States (in millions of dollars rounded off)
 
2009
Q1
2009
Q2
2009
Annual
2010
Q1
2010
Q2
Change from 2009-10
(Q1+Q2)
Iran imports from U.S.
$59
$80
$280
$73
$30
–26%
Iran exports to U.S.
$17
$14
$65
$20
$15
+13%
 
European Union European Commission (in millions of dollars rounded off)
 
2009
Q1
2009
Q2
2009
Annual
2010
Q1
2010
Q2
Change from 2009-10
(Q1+Q2)
Iran imports from EU
$3,138
$3,241
$13,835
$3,530
$3,863
+16%
Iran exports to EU
$1,964
$2,472
$8,475
$3,468
$4,845
+87%
 
Germany Foreign Ministry (in millions of dollars rounded off)
 
2009
Jan-Aug
2010
Jan-Aug
Change from 2009-10
Jan-Aug
Iran imports from Germany
$3,011
$3,360
+12%
Iran exports to Germany
$363
$704
+94%
 
Britain Foreign Ministry (in millions of dollars rounded off)
 
2009
Jan-Aug
2010
Jan-Aug
Change from 2009-10
Jan-Aug
Iran imports from Britain
$436
$365
–16%
Iran exports to Britain
$181
$278
+54%

 

France Foreign Ministry (in millions of dollars rounded off)
* French exports to Iran increased $177 million dollars in 2010 (January-August), since the same time in 2009.
 
2009
Annual
Iran imports from France
$1,853
Iran exports to France
$1,457


Read Semira Nikou's chapter on Iran's subsidies conundrum in “The Iran Primer”

Semira N. Nikou works for the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention at the U.S. Institute of Peace

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