Trade relations (Daily Times (Pakistan))

Ever since the Iran nuclear deal was finalised in July, several countries have been hoping to boost trade and other business with the country that has faced crippling economic sanctions in recent years. Of course, all these trade prospects are contingent upon whether Congress approves the deal. Although there was a strong backlash after an accord was reached from Republicans, conservatives and the Israeli lobby, who believed that the Obama administration was too weak in the negotiations and gave in to too many of Iran’s demands, there is a good chance that the deal will be supported by a two-thirds majority. Several Representatives and Senators have come out in support of the deal, as have several admirals and generals of the US military. The deal limits Iran’s uranium enrichment and centrifuges to block its path to a nuclear bomb for at least 15 years. Experts believe this to be a historic achievement of the Obama administration and, if common sense prevails, it should pass in Congress.

If and when the sanctions are lifted, Pakistan would have access to cheaper gas and oil and considerable trade opportunities would open up. Since Iran and Pakistan have had mutually beneficial trade relations in the past, there is no reason we should not capitalise on the lifting of sanctions. Pakistan’s trade with Iran dropped from $ 1.3 billion in 2008-2009 to $ 217 million in 2013-2014 as the sanctions were incrementally imposed. As the nuclear deal takes effect and the sanctions are phased out, Pakistan will have greater trade opportunities with its western neighbour. It would be cheaper for Pakistan to import fossil fuels from Iran as compared to the Middle East because of the shared border. Pakistan’s energy needs are growing while electricity production remains stagnant and the energy crisis continues to worsen, having disastrous affects on the economy and the livelihoods of the people. Importing fuel and electricity from Iran could be the lifeline that Pakistan needs to find its way out of its seemingly endless energy crisis. According to a government spokesperson, the two countries are in the final stages of negotiating a deal that would increase the imports of Iranian electricity into the border areas from 100 MW to 1,000 MW. Government officials believe that the import of electricity and the building of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, which is meant to have a terminal in Gwadar port, will also be beneficial for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project. There is a demand for Pakistani textiles, surgical goods, sports goods and agricultural products in Iran and its return to the global market can only be beneficial for Pakistan.*