Financial Tribune – The Iraqi capital city, Baghdad, is hosting a joint meeting of Economic Cooperation Commission with Iran.
The two-day session opened on Sunday and will conclude on Monday.
According to Iran’s Commercial Attaché to Iraq Nasser Behzad, the meeting is aimed at following up agreements reached between the two neighboring countries during President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Baghdad in March, which was reciprocated by Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s trip to Tehran in April, Trade Promotion Organization of Iran reported.
Among the main topics discussed at the event are the two sides’ intention to boost their annual bilateral trade to $20 billion (as agreed during Rouhani’s March visit) and facilitate commercial interactions.
The two sides are also expected to review relations in the banking sector, customs affairs, joint investment, technical and engineering services, as well as transportation and transit.
Iraq: 2nd Biggest Destination for Iran’s Non-Oil Exports
Based on data released by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, 19.84 million tons of non-oil goods worth $9.01 billion were traded between Iran and Iraq in the last fiscal year (ended March 20, 2019) to register a 48.25% and 35.75% growth in tonnage and value respectively compared with the year before.
Iran exported 19.76 million tons of goods worth $8.96 billion to Iraq, up by 49.15% and 36.71% in tonnage and value respectively year-on-year.
Iraq was Iran’s second export destination worldwide, after China, during the 12-month period.
Iran’s exports to Iraq included liquefied natural gas, mineral oils, household cleaning detergents, low-density oils and tomatoes.
It imported 73,563 tons of commodities worth $58.69 million from Iraq, down 43.14% and 34.61% in tonnage and value respectively YOY, which mainly constituted low-density oil, machinery, aluminum alloy and cans.
Iraq was the 41st exporter to Iran in the world.
According to Minister of Industries, Mining and Trade Reza Rahmani, Iran was the biggest exporter to Iraq last year.
“This is the first time Iran tops the list of exporters to neighboring Iraq … We need to retain this status using our full potential, as our rivals Turkey and China trail closely behind the Islamic Republic,” the minister was quoted as saying by IRNA.
With more than $1.93 billion, Iraq was also the biggest importer of Iran’s mineral products last year.
According to data released by the Iranian Mines & Mining Industries Development & Renovation, known as IMIDRO, a total of 9.67 million tons of mineral products were exported from Iran to the neighboring country last year.
According to the co-chair of Iran-Iraq Chamber of Commerce, Hamid Hosseini, Iran’s mineral exports to Iraq last year included non-precious metals worth a total of more than $1.13 billion, which experienced a 50% rise compared with the year before.
More specifically, the bulk of the exports included steel products worth more than $1 billion as well as copper products worth $71 million.
Earlier this month, Hosseini said Iran exported $2.5 billion worth of commodities and services to Iraq during the 100 days to July 1, registering an increase of 20% compared with last year’s corresponding period.
“In other words, an average of $250 million was exported to the neighboring country on a daily basis,” he added.
He provided statistics during Iran-Iraq Commercial Forum held at Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture on July 6
President of Iran-Iraq Chamber of Commerce Yahya Al-e Es’haq, who was also present at the forum, said Iran’s bilateral trade with Iraq is tenfold higher than that with the whole Europe.
Tripartite Transportation Agreement With Iraq, Syria
Syrian, Iran and Iraq reached an agreement earlier this month for cooperation in the transportation sector.
The minutes of the meeting were signed by Director General of the General Establishment of Syrian Railways Najib al-Fares, Iranian Deputy Minister and Chairman of Roads Maintenance and Transport Organization Shahram Adamnejad and Chairman of the Iraqi Roads Maintenance and Transport Organization and Director General of Technical Department, Ministry of Transport Imran Mousa in Tehran.
The minutes include forming a central committee for tripartite cooperation. Specialized work teams in all domains of transport will also be formed to help prepare the required technical study to carry out joint transportation projects, railroad in particular.
In a statement to SANA, Al-Fares said the rail networking project will help save time and achieve a safe and economical transport route that would reflect positively on the citizens in terms of time and cost.
During the signing of the minutes, Adamnejad said the goal of negotiations is to activate the Iranian-Iraqi-Syria load and transport corridor as part of a wider plan for reviving the Silk Road, as the three countries are experienced in international trade.
He underlined the necessity of facilitating the flow of trade and commodities among the three states, indicating that the efforts exerted by businessmen and investors will increase transactions among the three countries.
Shalamcheh-Basra Rail Project
Iran’s Deputy Roads Minister Kheirollah Khademi, in a meeting attended by the heads of the railroads of Iran, Iraq and Syria in Tehran recently, said construction work on Shalamcheh-Basra rail project would begin within three months.
“We are ready to implement the project in Iraq, expecting the Iraqi government to allocate the intended land of the project to us,” he was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.
Khademi, who also heads the main infrastructure company in Iran’s transportation system, the Construction and Development of Transportation Infrastructures Company, added that following the signing of an agreement between Iran and Iraq, the contractor and investor of the 32-kilometer Shalamcheh-Basra Railroad have been designated.
He noted that the go-ahead for the construction of the $150-million rail project was only waiting for the Iraqi side to carry out its part of commitments, adding that Iran’s Mostazafan Foundation, with years of experience in construction activities, will be responsible for the funding and implementation of the entire project in Iran and Iraq.
Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami considers the construction of Shalamcheh-Basra Railroad as the main priority of the ministry under his watch in the current Iranian year (ending March 19, 2020).
The launch of the 32-kilometer railroad boosts Iran’s exports to Iraq and from this route to West Asian and North African countries.
In order to complete the Shalamcheh-Basra Railroad, the 17-kilometer Khorramshahr-Shalamcheh Railroad was completed in 2011 to connect Iranian railroads to the Iraqi city of Basra.
With the start of the first tenure of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, the completion of Shalamcheh railroad to Basra was seriously considered by the government to facilitate the travel of Iranian pilgrims, especially during the Arbaeen pilgrimage season and travelers could use this rail link from Iran via Basra to Karbala and other holy cities of Iraq.
While Iraqi passenger and freight trains are using the rail link of Basra to Karbala, Iranian pilgrims have been travelling by train from Tehran to Shalamcheh and from there after a 32-km trip by bus to Basra and depart from Basra to Karbala by Iraqi train.
The Iraqi side failed to build the railroad from Shalamcheh to Basra due to economic problems and a shortage of funds.
To complete the rail project, according to an earlier agreement reached with the Iraqi authorities, Iran was about to build a 700-meter bridge on Arvandroud river until the railroad passes above the river and after 32 kilometers is connected to Basra’s Train Station.
Iran’s rail connection to Iraq will eventually be extended to Syria.
“We will connect the Persian Gulf from Iraq to Syria and the Mediterranean via railroad and road,” Iran’s First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri said.