EghtesadOnline: Iran’s trade with its leading commercial partner, China, reached $14.78 billion in 2021, registering a 1% decline compared with the year before.
New data released by China’s General Administration of Customs also show Iran’s exports totaled $6.5 billion during the period, indicating a 0.9% year-on-year increase.
In return, China exported $8.28 billion worth of commodities to Iran, registering a 2.5% YOY decrease.
Bilateral trade hit $1.65 billion in December 2021.
IRICA on Fiscal 2020-21 Trade
According to the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, Iran-China non-oil trade stood at 30.12 million tons worth $18.71 billion in the fiscal 2020-21.
China accounted for 26% of Iran's total non-oil exports, as 26.58 million tons of non-oil goods worth $8.95 billion were shipped from Iran to China during the period.
Pistachio, nuts, minerals, construction materials, methanol, carpet, iron ore, glassware and fruits were the main types of goods exported from Iran to China in the last fiscal year.
Imports from China totaled 3.54 million tons worth $9.76 billion during the year to March 21, 2021, to account for 10.6% of the total volume of Iran's imports and 25.3% of the total value of imports during the period.
Industrial machinery and raw materials, medical equipment, paper, wood, textile, auto parts and sports equipment were Iran's main imports from the South Asian state in the fiscal 2020-21.
Iran’s non-oil trade with the East Asian country declined by over 10% last year, as bilateral trade totaled $20.82 billion in the year ending March 20, 2020.
25-Year Cooperation Deal Comes Into Force
China and Iran announced plans for cooperation in areas such as energy and infrastructure earlier this month, as they officially launched a 25-year cooperation agreement.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also told his visiting Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in the eastern city of Wuxi that Beijing continues to back efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal that the United States withdrew from in 2018, South China Morning Post reported.
The landmark China-Iran comprehensive cooperation agreement, signed in March last year and moved into implementation phase on Jan. 14, will see the two countries expand cooperation on energy, infrastructure, production capacity, science and technology, and medicine and healthcare, according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry.
Bilateral cooperation will also be expanded to third-party markets and in the fields of agriculture, fisheries and cybersecurity, as well as that did not elaborate.
China ramped up its purchases of Iranian crude last month after independent refiners were granted additional import quotas for 2021. The nation imported almost 18 million barrels in November, equivalent to about 600,000 barrels a day, according to market intelligence firm Kpler.
US officials have reportedly threatened to enforce sanctions targeting Chinese firms over these Iranian oil sales.
Amir-Abdollahian told state news agency Xinhua that Tehran “looks forward to learning from China’s development experience and advanced technology”.
He also expressed support for the Beijing Winter Olympics, saying Iran would attend the opening ceremony.
It was also reported that Amir-Abdollahian said China had provided 110 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to Iran, and that he had delivered an “important” written message by President Ebrahim Raisi to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Wang also reiterated China’s position on the Iran nuclear agreement, to which it is a signatory, saying the US bore most of the responsibility for months of stagnation in talks about reviving the deal, as it unilaterally quit in 2018.
The cooperation document had for the first time been discussed in 2015, when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran.
The agreement reportedly pledges Chinese investments of $400–600 billion.
Accession to SCO
In a summit held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in September, the Chinese president announced the commencement of procedures to grant Iran full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Iran’s trade with member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is around one-third of its total trade with other countries.
According to the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Jamestown Foundation, although SCO is mainly security and politically focused, membership in the organization is also supposed to have an economic dimension.
Mohammad Lahouti, the head of Iran Export Confederation, said Iran’s accession to SCO is a watershed event for diplomacy, which can open up new frontiers for the country’s economy.
“Iran has unparalleled capacities through which cooperation with SCO members can be facilitated. The country is located on corridors linking north to south and west to east; Iran remains the most important corridor to cross West Asia, although many countries tried to replace it over these years,” he said.
“According to statistics, the country has one of the largest global oil and gas reserves needed by China and India, two key members of SCO.”
However, Mohsen Jalalpour, former president of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, is skeptical.
“Is accession to SCO a really historic event? I personally believe it is; such developments are very important for Iran’s economy; they shouldn’t be regarded in passing. Yet, what is central is whether the country will be able to tap into such opportunities. Therefore, the event per se is significant but we probably won’t achieve the favorable outcome of it all,” he wrote for the Persian economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad.
“Where does my pessimism come from? The fact of the matter is that in the past few years, we did not forge any economic ties with any, I repeat, any country. Our relations, even with our neighbors were based on security and political issues. I urge you to think twice if you believe I’m wrong. In relation with what country, did economic issues come first?”
Iran will embark on the path of becoming a full-fledged member of SCO at the next summit in September 2022, a Russian envoy to the eight-nation bloc said recently.
"We expect a memorandum to be signed in Samarkand [Uzbekistan] in September 2022. This means Iran will begin the concrete process of accession," Bakhtiyer Khakimov also told reporters on the sidelines of an SCO national coordinators' meeting in Tashkent.
Uzbekistan, which holds the rotating SCO presidency, has shared a draft memorandum listing conditions for Iran's accession with other members. Khakimov said every aspiring member state has a tailored list of criteria to meet, Sputnik International reported.