0850 GMT May 20, 2019
Negotiations are underway for one or two private Iranian banks to register branches in Switzerland to facilitate Tehran-Bern trades in light of US sanctions against Iran, said the chairman of Iran-Swiss Chamber of Commerce.
"At least of one of these branches will be registered after November when the second round of (US) sanctions (against Iran) will be enforced," Sharif Nezam-Mafi told Iran Daily.
He said the US sanctions have affected commercial ties between the two sides, adding, "The opening of branches of Iranian banks in Switzerland can be useful in facilitating trade.
"The good news is that most Swiss firms not only have not stopped cooperation with Iran, but have kept up their activities."
Nezam-Mafi further said, "Private Swiss firms are familiar with the Iranian market and consider it promising. They have chosen not to abandon it even under pressure (from the US)."
At the end of the day, these firms make decisions based on their interests, he pointed out.
He hoped that the Swiss firms would continue working with Iran even after the second round of US sanctions, but said the extent of their activities hinges on the level of pressure that will be exerted by the US administration.
Iran mainly imported industrial machinery from Switzerland before the US sanctions but imports are currently limited to grains and health products, the official said.
Iran's exports to the European country were mostly petrochemical products and handicrafts, Nezam-Mafi explained.
President Donald Trump moved to restore tough US sanctions in May after withdrawing from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The US imposed some sanctions against Iran in August targeting the country's trade in gold and other precious metals, its purchases of US dollars and its auto industry.
Trump said a new round of sanctions will be imposed in November, targeting Iranian oil sales.
Elaborating the reactions of Swiss banks after the US abandonment of nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Nezam-Mafi said that many of these banks came to the conclusion that continuing cooperation with Iran would be translated as loss for them.
"However, small banks, which had fewer risk factors in their monetary and financial dealings in the Iranian market, have maintained cooperation," he added.
Nezam-Mafi said the value of banking transactions between Iran and Switzerland was about 650 billion rials or $15.5 million (calculated based on the official exchange rate of 42,000 rials to the US dollar) last year, posting a decline compared to the figure for the previous year.
He, however, said the latest European Union measures to shield European firms against secondary US sanctions could see Iran's trades with the continent increasing.
The EU has adopted a so-called 'blocking statute' that protects European companies from secondary US sanctions, including by deterring US authorities from enforcing some penalties.
Nezam-Mafi said a trade delegation will travel to Switzerland after November to explore avenues for more cooperation in areas such as health and tourism.