Europeans push last bid to salvage Iran deal, but work on plan B(s)

(Reuters, Paris/Brussels, 3 May 2018) France, Britain and Germany all say they will stay in the deal even if the United States withdraws, and try to protect and foster European trade and ECA support with Iran, which has soared since the European Union lifted most of its economic sanctions. Iran’s exports of mainly fuel and other energy products to the EU in 2016 jumped 344% to 5.5 billion euros ($6.58 billion) compared to the previous year, while investment in Iran jumped to more than 20 billion euros. The Europeans aim to present a separate political agreement to the White House that commits to taking a tougher stance on Iran, if they can agree it in time with the U.S. France’s President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are continuing to lobby Trump, but with the prospect of him changing his mind remote, the focus has shifted to managing the fallout and avoiding a dangerous vacuum. The German Economy Ministry said it was waiting for a formal U.S. decision on the Iran deal before deciding whether to stop offering German firms export guarantees for business deals with Tehran. Such guarantees provide state protection for companies doing business abroad when foreign debtors fail to pay. The EU may also be considering switching to euros instead of U.S. dollars in the oil trade with Iran The prospect of trade with Europe would provide the Europeans with a chance to assuage the Iranians, and dissuade them from rash decisions such as leaving the deal or reviving the nuclear activities they agreed to give up. The Financial Times notes that even as European leaders prepared their pleas for exemptions from US president Donald Trump’s sanctions on Iran, advisers were warning of a deepening chill on multinationals’ willingness to do business with the Islamic republic.