0650 GMT February 25, 2020
Speaking to Iran Daily in an exclusive interview, Mohammad-Kazem Shirdel, the vice president of Iran-Tajikistan Chamber of Commerce, added trade transactions between the two countries have increased by up to 40 percent since the beginning of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21, 2019).
A political reason started the downward trend in trade between the two countries in 2015 after causing tensions in relations between Tehran and Dushanbe.
Shirdel noted that in addition to the political issue, US unilateral sanctions against Iran further hampered trade between the two Asian countries, causing annual Iranian exports to Tajikistan to fall to $78 million in 2018, from $263 million in 2012.
In May 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed between Iran and the P5+1 in July 2015, and reimposed Washington’s unilateral sanctions on Tehran.
Relations between the two sides, however, thawed after almost four years, and, in June 2019, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin invited, in a visit to Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to attend the fifth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), held on June 15, 2019. In his visit, the Tajik foreign minister also called for the expansion of cooperation in different fields between the two countries. Rouhani’s trip to Tajikistan opened a new chapter in the two sides’ relations.
Commenting on this, Shirdel said the political problem which had soured relations between Iran and Tajikistan was resolved following visits by Rouhani and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the Central Asian country.
He added from now on, the number of official exchanges between the two countries should increase as they further concentrate on expanding cooperation with each other.
The two countries’ improved relations were manifested in the Fifth Exclusive Exhibition of Iran in Tajikistan (December 21-24, 2019) Shirdel said, noting that Tajiks warmly welcomed Governor General of the northeastern Iranian province of Khorasan Razavi Alireaza Razm Hosseini and his accompanying team as well as the members of the joint chamber of commerce.
He added more than 50 Iranian companies participated in the expo.
“Tajiks were very keen on seeing trade and economic ties between the two sides returning to their former level. A bright future awaits economic cooperation and trade transactions between the two countries.”
Shifting to the present circumstances of the Tajik market, he said Tajikistan is not like what it was 10 years ago.
The country has improved its economy and is paying greater attention to the enforcement of laws and regulations, Shirdel stressed.
“At present, only high quality products are accepted into the Tajik market. Thus, some traders should change their attitude toward exports to Tajikistan.”
He said in Iran’s December exhibition in Tajikistan, the trade delegation dispatched by the joint chamber of commerce assured the Tajiks that their required goods will be produced and sent to the country with a quality above the standards they have set.
Speaking of another problem currently besetting the overseas sales of Iranian products to Tajikistan, Shirdel regretted Tajikistan has currently closed all its borders with Turkmenistan due to a number of issues between the two countries and Iran normally sends its products to the Tajik market through its northeastern neighbor.
“To resolve this, we send our products to Uzbekistan and thence to Tajikistan. Therefore, it is difficult to announce the exact amount of our exports to the Central Asian state. Re-exporting Iran’s goods from Uzbekistan to Tajikistan pushes up costs borne by Iranian traders. However, currently, there is no other alternative for sending products from Iran to the Tajik market.”
He said Tajikistan can be a base and gateway for Iran’s exports to other Central Asian states, such as Kyrgyzstan.
Shirdel said with a population of eight million, Tajikistan is a lucrative market for Iranian goods, adding however, it is not big enough to be a destination for a large amount of Iran’s exports.
He noted that Iran can help Tajikistan in textile industry and the field of mineral exploration.
“They also need our petrochemicals, foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Also, Tajikistan can use Iran’s capabilities in the field of medical tourism.”