As Iran journeys back from isolation, Asian nations stand ready to engage
When Iran was welcomed cautiously back into the international fold in January, some were expecting a flood of suitors in front of Tehran’s door, while others thought the path back from exile might be a bit stop-start.
And while there have been business deals with some Western nations, such as France signing off an order for Airbus aircraft, it has been Asian nations that have been best-placed to improve, restore and underline trade agreements and mutual policies between themselves and the Islamic Republic.
Today, Tehran confirmed it had seen a 13% increase in oil exports to Asia, off the back of its energy market unshackling.
India and South Korea led the way in Iranian imports, picking up the slack after drops in crude purchases for China and Japan.
But even before international sanctions were relaxed earlier in the year, those four Asian countries mentioned above maintained their oil imports from Iran.
India, most of all, is brimming with infrastructure companies licking their lips at the chance to get involved in the re-opening Iran.
Its tech firms and place as the world’s biggest open-market democracy give it a unique position in the region.
And it has just announced annual growth for 2015/16 of 7.6%, outstripping the other so-called BRIC nations of Brazil, China and Russia and underlining its growing economic strength.
So with continued upward GDP expansion and the unbuttoning of business regulation in India, coupled with a change of policy towards Iran, has seen the 2014 Narendra Modi administration embed itself firmly with an old trading partner that is now seen by others in the world in a fresh light.
The times they are a-changin’
So when policies change or when governments are voted out and replaced, it is not just that specific country which sees the results internally. A new president or a lessening of sanctions can breathe new life into dusty agreements or encourage fresh engagement from different actors pursuing new angles.
Across the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the ongoing fade of the ‘pink left’ governments in Latin America has sparked possible new directions when it comes to trade.
The nascent, business-friendly presidential administration of Mauricio Macri in Argentina has been making tentative steps as an observer within the Pacific Alliance – a group of four Latin nations that is based on free-trade.
Argentina may not be a Pacific Rim country but it shows the fluidity of blocs and the alternating popularity of regional partnerships when it comes to a change of government.
Under previous leader Cristina Fernández, protectionism was the bedrock for Argentinian trade and she called as her acolytes fellow leftists in Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.
Now the new leader wants to move his country in his preferred direction and that seems to be by nudging up to Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile’s integrated club.