Trump poses new threat to Iran’s resurgent rug trade

Press TV- Iran’s carpet sales continued to rise last year which also saw the country reclaim much of the market share it had lost during years of intensified sanctions, especially in the US.

As many as 80 countries received shipments of handmade Iranian carpets totaling $400 million in value in the Persian year which ended on Tuesday, head of Iran National Carpet Center Hamid Kargar told Fars news agency Wednesday.

“More than $100 million worth of Iranian carpets were exported to the United States in the 11 months of 1396 while in the past years, those exports had reached zero as a result of sanctions and malicious policies of the United States,” he said.

A stack of sanctions imposed in 2010 and then in 2012 pulled the rug from under the much-coveted Iranian carpet business, allowing cheaper craft from Pakistan and India to gain a foothold in the US.

“However, our exports to the US over the years of 1395 and 1396 showed that those in the business of Iranian rugs managed to take back their market share from the rivals and continue to be the leaders of the global carpet business,” Kargar said.

In this Aug. 4, 2015 photo, an Iranian woman weaves a carpet at a workshop by the Cultural and Artistic Carpet Foundation of Rassam Arabzadeh in Tehran. (Photo by AP)

Iranian caviar, pistachios, saffron and carpets and US commercial aircraft and their parts are among the items allowed for limited business with the United States after Washington agreed to lift some of its sanctions on the Islamic Republic under a 2016 nuclear deal.

However, shipments from Iran to the US might be headed for choppy waters again as President Donald Trump is threatening to tear up the nuclear agreement with Iran when his mid-May deadline for a radical change of the accord arrives.

Last August, 14 American traders attended the 26th edition of Iran’s handmade carpet expo in Tehran for the first time, Tasnim news agency quoted Kargar as saying then.

There is a sizable Iranian diaspora living in the United States which has kept a semblance of trade between the two countries alive in the absence of diplomatic relations which were severed following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

For years, Iranians have dominated the handmade carpet market in the US because of the superior quality of Persian rugs. In the United States, Persian rugs are sold for between $10,000 for a smaller rug and $100,000 or even twice as much for a fine, large rug.

Alex Helmi, center, regards one of the 40 newly arrived handmade Persian rugs — some antique, some modern — at his Westwood store, Damoka. (Photo by LA Times)

“The trump card of the rivals of Iran’s handmade carpets in the global markets is their lower finished prices. However, the originality and quality of the Iranian carpet is still at the top,” Kargar said.

India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and Turkey, he said, are currently Iran’s main rivals in the market.

Nevertheless, Iranian carpet traders are adjusting to the changing environment and devoting more attention to new customers in Asia,  especially a growing legion of rich people in China.

Beside the US, Germany, Italy, France, Britain, the UAE, Lebanon, Kuwait and Japan are Iran’s traditional customers for handmade carpets. Some of the new clients are China, Chile, South Africa, Russia, and Brazil.

An Iranian woman sketches and paints carpet patterns at a workshop in the Cultural and Artistic Carpet Foundation of Rassam Arabzadeh in Tehran, Aug. 4, 2015. (Photo by AP)

Among them, China has turned from a major rival in the past into one of the top 20 destinations of Iranian carpets. According to Kargar, about $4 million worth of Iranian carpets were exported to China in the first 11 months of last year.