US sanctions hit two of Iran’s top non-energy exports

VOA News | Michael Lipin: New U.S. sanctions targeting Iranian industrial metals will hit two of the country’s most lucrative non-energy exports, according to Iranian government data seen by VOA Persian.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday, seeking to deny Iran revenue from its exports of iron, steel, aluminum and copper. The measure blocks the assets of people involved in producing those metals inside Iran. It also authorizes sanctions against foreign financial institutions that sell goods and services to Iran to help it produce or export those metals.

An Iranian government trade report for the Persian year that ended March 20 shows iron, cast iron and steel were the nation’s fourth-biggest non-energy export, earning $3.8 billion. The report, published online by Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization, says iron, cast iron and steel accounted for 8% of Iran’s exports, excluding oil and gas, for the year. The $3.8 billion marked a 12% increase from the previous Persian year, the report also showed.

The same report also showed copper and copper products were Iran’s 10th-biggest non-energy export in the last Persian year, drawing $699 million in revenue, a 217% increase from the year before. That revenue accounted for 1.6% of Iran’s non-energy exports for the year.

Aluminum did not feature in the Iranian trade report’s list of the top 10 non-energy exports for the last Persian year.

Trump ‘puts other nations on notice’

In his statement, Trump said Iranian exports of industrial metals accounted for 10% of its export economy. “Today’s action … puts other nations on notice that allowing Iranian steel and other metals into your ports will no longer be tolerated,” he said.

A U.S. Commerce Department report published in March said Iran exported 9.24 million tons of steel in 2018, a 24% increase by volume from the year before. It said Iran was the world’s 18th-largest steel exporter in 2017, selling the metal to 120 countries and territories.

Texas-based research company Harbor Aluminum, in an email to VOA Persian, said Iran’s main customers for aluminum exports from 2013 to 2018 were Turkey, India, Taiwan, South Korea and China. It said the volume of Iran’s aluminum exports had fluctuated between 100,000 to 200,000 tonnes a year.

U.S. news agency Bloomberg published a Wednesday report citing Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Andrew Cosgrove as saying Iran’s copper exports in 2018 amounted to 138,000 tonnes.

There was no immediate reaction to the new U.S. sanctions in Iranian state media.

Washington has widened sanctions against Iran repeatedly over the past year, calling it part of a campaign to impose maximum pressure on Tehran to change perceived malign behavior. Iran has vowed to defy the previous U.S. sanctions and rely on its own resources to sustain its economy.