Pakistan to continue trade ties with Iran despite US sanctions

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Umer Farooq
ISLAMABAD
Pakistan has decided to ignore the re-imposed US economic sanctions on Iran in order to continue pursuing “legitimate trade and commercial relations with its neighbouring Muslim country”, said a senior government official.
The policy to continue trade and commercial relations with Iran was formulated during the last days of the government of former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi when President Trump Administration started to drop the hints that they would re-impose sanctions on Iran after abandoning the nuclear agreement.
However it is expected that the government-in-waiting of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) under the leadership of prime minister-designate Imran Khan would continue with the policy.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry is studying the implications of re-imposed US sanctions on Iran, “We are studying the possible implications for Pakistan,…,would the sanctions in any way impact Pakistan’s trade and commercial relations with Iran,” said a senior government official.
Officials said that Pakistan’s response to this situation that has developed in the wake of re-imposition of sanctions will be based on its understanding of international legal regime that is right now in place with regards to relations with Iran. “However, Pakistan, being a sovereign state, reserves the right to pursue legitimate economic and commercial interests while respecting the international legal regime,” foreign office spokesman, Dr Muhammad Faisal said in a statement.
Pakistan’s understanding of the International legal regime indicates that at present the relevant UN Security Council Resolution 2231 requires the UN member states to facilitate trade and commerce with Iran and not to create obstacles in its way.
Islamabad based experts of international law say that the UNSC 2231 underlines, “promoting and facilitating the development of normal economic and trade contacts and cooperation with Iran,” as an essential part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA)-signed between Iran and five permanent members of the security council. It calls upon all member states to support its implementation, including to ensure Iran’s access in areas of trade, technology, finance and energy, and refrain from actions that undermine it. As part of the JCPOA itself, the US alongside other JCPOA participants, undertook to refrain from any policy intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran.
A clear indication that PTI government in formation would continue policy to continue trade with Iran came early this week when the PM-designate accepted the invitation of Iranian President to visit Tehran.
President Hassan Rouhani called PTI chief and expressed willingness to improve bilateral relations. Rouhani also invited Imran to visit Iran after taking the oath.
Interesting before taking call from the Iranian President, Imran had a meeting with acting US Ambassador, John Hoover.
However PTI chairman clear expressed his intention to develop relations based on trust with the US. He further stressed that Pakistan is desirous of maintaining strong economic and trade relations with the US.
However analysts say that the policy to continue trade with Iran despite US sanctions may adversely affect the atmospherics between the new PTI government and Washington.
It is pertinent to mention here that the volume of trade between the Pakistan and Iran is very low. Bilateral trade peaked to $1.2 billion in 2009, but subsequently declined and reached to as low as $358.6 million in 2016 — when the JCPOA was signed.

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