Countries and regions
The EU's trade with Iran was subject to restrictions derived from United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions between 2006 and 2010.
A group of EU and non-EU countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the European Union) and the Islamic Republic of Iran reached an agreement on a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on 14 July 2015.
The JCPOA dictates limitations to Iran’s nuclear programme as well as increased monitoring and transparency in exchange for the relief of existing international sanctions, including on trade. In response to the JCPOA, the UN began lifting some sanctions in January 2016.
The JCPOA and its implementation open up the possibility of a gradual but substantive reengagement with Iran at different levels, including bilateral trade.
- China and the United Arab Emirates are now Iran's main trade partners, followed by the EU. The EU used to be the first trading partner of Iran before the current sanctions regime.
- Balance in trade with Iran was €5.2 billion in 2015. Trade balances for the previous 10 years with Iran were mostly negative (except for 2009).
- The EU exported almost €6.5 billion worth of goods to Iran in 2015. EU exports to Iran are mainly machinery and transport equipment, chemicals and manufactured goods.
- The EU imported over €1.2 billion worth of goods from Iran in 2015. Most EU imports from Iran are energy-related (mineral fuels), followed by chemicals, manufactured goods and food. Due to sanctions, EU oil imports from Iran came to a halt.
- Total EU imports from Iran decreased by 86% between 2012 and 2013. Total EU exports decreased by 26% during the same period. In 2014 EU imports from Iran increased by 48% and EU exports increased by 18%.
EU-Iran "trade in goods" statistics
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EU-Iran "trade in services" statistics
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Foreign direct investment
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EU and Iran
EU sanctions regime
Following a confirmation by the International Agency for Atomic energy that Iran had fulfilled its nuclear obligations under JCPOA, all EU economic and financial sanctions taken in connection with the Iranian nuclear programme were lifted in January 2016.
Nonetheless some sanctions and restrictions remain, including:
- the arms embargo
- sanctions related to missile technology
- restrictions on certain nuclear-related transfers and activities
- provisions concerning certain metals and software which are subject to an authorisation regime
- other related listings
Trade with Iran is subject to the general EU import regime, since Iran is not a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and no bilateral agreement exists between the EU and Iran.
The EU supports the goal of Iranian accession to the WTO, a necessary step for Iran to trade globally as an effective and reliable actor.
Negotiations for a non-preferential Trade and Cooperation Agreement took place, in parallel with negotiations on Political Dialogue and Counter-Terrorism between 2002 and 2005. These negotiations were put on hold after Iran resumed its uranium conversion programme. There are no current plans to reactivate these negotiations.
More information available:
- Information note EU sanctions JCPOA - Last updated on 23 January 2016
- Consolidated list of persons, groups and entities subject to EU financial sanctions
- Restrictive measures (sanctions) in force (last update 7.07.2016)
Trading with Iran
- Importing into the EU from Iran
- EU trade defence measures on imports from Iran
- Exporting from the EU to Iran
- Trade relations are part of the EU's overall political and economic relations with Iran
- Iran has observer status in the World Trade Organisation
- There is currently no EU Delegation in Tehran. The EU is usually represented by a country holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU.