Thursday, June 02, 2005

Iran hopes to join the WTO in 5 years - Persian Journal

Iran hopes to join the world body in 5 years - Persian Journal Latest Iran news & Iranian Newspaper: "Iran hopes to join the world body in 5 years
Jun 2, 2005
Bloomberg
Iran, holder of the world's second-largest reserves of oil and gas, expects to join the World Trade Organization by 2010 provided the US supports its membership talks, the country's commerce minister said.

"If we don't face any political hurdles, it will take us around five years," Mohammad Shariatmadari said in an interview at his office in central Tehran on Wednesday. He called on the Bush administration to adopt a 'suitable attitude' and criticised ?pressures? applied by the US since 1996, when Iran first applied to be an observer at the Geneva-based body.

The $480 billion economy got the go-ahead to start talks on May 26 after the US dropped its opposition, following a commitment to resolve a dispute over nuclear programme.

The US, which accuses Iran of supporting terrorism, had blocked 22 previous Iranian requests to begin accession talks.

Iran, where imported cars are twice as costly as in Europe and gasoline one-tenth the price, expects membership in the WTO to help ease a decade-long trade ban. The US, Iran's biggest trading partner in the early 1990s, forbids its companies from investing in Iran or selling goods such as computers or aircraft there. US economic sanctions have crimped Iran's economic progress, forcing it to rely on other countries for technology.

"The US has destroyed many bridges, and it will take a long time to reconstruct these," Mr Shariatmadari said. "Still, the US is a vast market, and most of our petrochemical, industrial and agricultural production could be exported there," he said.

Relations between the US and Iran deteriorated in 1979 after students stormed the American embassy in Tehran, holding 52 people hostage for 444 days. In 1995, President Bill Clinton banned US companies and their foreign subsidiaries from conducting business with Iran. A year later, he passed the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which permits US sanctions on foreign companies investing more than $20 million a year in Iran's energy industry. The law has never been enforced.

"This is totally against the WTO regulation," said Mr Shariatmadari, who's spent eight years in office. Once Iran is a WTO member, the US "will no longer be in a position to impose such sanctions."

Some 200 foreign companies have defied the ban and are working in Iran in industries ranging from banking to vehicle manufacturing.

To comply with WTO rules, Iran will gradually need to remove subsidies and to eliminate tariffs that were created to protect domestic industry from foreign competition."

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