Britain, France, Germany launch new trade system with Iran

February 1, 2019 GMT

Saying they remain committed to the Iran nuclear deal despite the U.S. exit last year, the United Kingdom, France and Germany late Thursday announced plans to launch a new joint system allowing them to trade with Tehran.

The mechanism, announced at a European Union meeting in Bucharest, will facilitate trade of medical equipment, food, agricultural supplies and other goods with Iran. The three nations said the system, known as the Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) will be entirely transparent and “will function under the highest international standards with regards to anti-money laundering, combating the financing of terrorism ... and EU and UN sanctions compliance.”


“Today we have taken a significant step forward in delivering our commitment under the Iran nuclear deal to preserve sanctions relief for the people of Iran,” U.K. Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt told reporters. “We the E3 have registered a new Special Purpose Vehicle which, when operational, will allow legitimate trade between Europe and Iran.”

“This is a clear, practical demonstration that we remain firmly committed to the historic 2015 nuclear deal struck with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, for as long as Iran keeps implementing it fully,” he continued.

The move underscores Europe’s commitment to the 2015 deal, which was a key foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration. It called for the easing of economic sanctions and the allowance of trade with Tehran in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

But President Trump last March pulled the U.S. out of the agreement, fulfilling a major campaign promise and alleging that the deal still allowed Iran to pursue nuclear weapons.

“This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” the president said last year when announcing his decision.

Top U.S. intelligence officials this week said they believe Iran is complying with the deal and has not reversed course.

“We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told lawmakers.

Europe also believes Tehran has complied with the deal. Officials said their decision to ramp up trade with Iran comes in response to that compliance.

“The Iran nuclear deal remains central to international efforts to halt nuclear proliferation and is crucial for the security of the region,” Mr. Hunt said. “But we are clear, this commitment does not in any way preclude us from addressing Iran’s hostile and destabilising activities.”