Iranian President Hassan Rouhani traveled to Yerevan on Monday, September 30, to attend the Eurasian Economic Union summit at the invitation of the Armenian President.
The Eurasian Economic Union is a regional-economic union made up of countries that each has significant capabilities and potentials for economic partnership with Iran. Russia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Belarus are members of the union. Iran and several other countries such as Singapore, Moldova and Vietnam are also on the path to cooperation with the EAEU. The Eurasian Economic Union, of course, is mainly aimed at enhancing Russia’s role among its members, and not all CIS countries have joined. Concerning the importance of the summit, on the one hand, according to some officials, the Preferential Trade Agreement between Iran and the Eurasian Union will go into effect as of October 27, and accordingly, Iran must become a member of the Eurasian Union within three years. The agreement also includes 862 items of goods, including 360 items from Iran to Eurasia and 502 items from Eurasia to Iran.
On the other hand, the first presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Eurasian summit is very important diplomatically, as meetings and negotiations were held on the sidelines of the summit, and opportunities for exchange of views between state leaders, especially in the economic field, were created.
But in terms of content, there are a few things to keep in mind. While Iran is currently under US sanctions and should take advantage of such opportunities, yet the right space and context for cooperation should be available. We have seen that after three years of negotiations with Eurasia, Iran has signed a preferential trade agreement with the EAEU which is due to be implemented in November. There are also about 800 items in the memorandum some with zero tariffs and some other goods are subject to reduced tariffs or preferential tariffs. But this is reciprocal, and it is not just for Iran to export goods. Therefore, the EAEU) member states also export goods to Iran using this agreement. It would be in Iran’s interest if it could export all these goods to EAEU member states and export more than imports, which would mean a positive balance for Tehran. However, those countries will also export goods to Iran using tariffs, and if they are the goods produced in Iran, if they enter the country with preferential tariffs or zero tariffs, it will have a negative impact on Iranian products. Eurasian countries should also be able to implement these partnerships and not be affected by US sanctions. Because we see that even Russia, under the influence of the sanctions, has imposed some restrictions on Iran.
If Iran under the sanctions and under circumstances that Europe too has failed to meet its commitments, could properly pursue its cooperation with Eurasia an opportunity for expanding regional trade and increasing Iran’s non-oil exports will be provided.
Also, as mentioned above, in the future, if this agreement is implemented by the book and the parties would have no reservation, Iran will become a member of the Eurasian Economic Union.
To become a member of the EAEU Iran needs to go through several stages the proper implementation of this agreement could be a small step in the right direction; the EAEU secretary general too has announced in a press conference that if the agreement proves effective for the member states it could facilitate Iran’s membership. Iran has been seeking membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization for more than a decade but it has not been admitted despite being an observer member of the SCO. It is possible that Iran’s membership in Eurasia will have the same fate of the SCO. But if Iran’s membership in the Eurasian Union faces no problems and political barriers are removed, it will be an opportunity for our country to join a regional economic union, which is a great opportunity both for regional cooperation and for economic cooperation between Iran and the member states of the union. It can also facilitate Iran’s membership in Shanghai.
Finally, considering that some members of the Eurasian Economic Union are also members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation (ECO), Iran as one of the founders of ECO, can propose joint cooperation between the two organizations as a constructive initiative in line with further consolidation and synergy with other members. If this is done, given the disagreement between some members of these institutions, this cooperation could pave the way for resolving regional disputes, including the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis and the dispute between Turkey and Armenia.