January 21, 2014 | Quote

Rouhani to Woo Business in Davos But Iran Hurdles Abound

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will court global business in Davos next week after winning an easing of some economic sanctions, but any trade bonanza depends on the long-term success of nuclear diplomacy.

A U.S. stranglehold on Iran's access to the international financial system, the uncertain future of talks on its nuclear programme beyond a six-month initial deal, and vested interests in the Islamic Republic suspicious of Western investment all stand in Rouhani's way.

“I would be surprised if you saw Iran shooting quickly to the top of the list of attractive markets, although it may be attractive for certain manufactured goods companies in the short to medium term,” said a Western business consultant who works with many of the world's biggest companies.

Emanuele Ottolenghi, senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, said even apparently harmless goods such as dental implants and crowns contained titanium and beryllium that had nuclear applications.

By increasing tenfold to 400,000 euros ($543,800) the size of banking transactions exempted from prior authorisation, the European Union would make it easier to sell speciality hi-tech equipment to Tehran, he said.

“I don't mind Italian designers selling high-end shoes and furniture, or Germans selling fancy bathroom installations, but I'm concerned about the areas chosen for easing sanctions such as automobiles and petrochemicals which lend themselves to dual (civilian/military) use,” Ottolenghi said.

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