UAE economy chief sees new world of opportunity in Iran trade

Sultan Al Mansouri said the possible lifting of western sanctions would help to renew historic economic ties between the UAE and Iran.

Sultan Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, speaks at a meeting of the General Civil Aviation Authority in Dubai on Thursday. Sarah Dea / The National
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Emirati businesses would invest in hospitality and transport projects in Iran if western sanctions against the country were lifted, said Sultan Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Economy.

“Iran is a very important country for us,” he said. “The final outcome for the negotiations that are taking place right now is very important, whether for the UAE, the region, or the world. Iran is an important trading partner, and it has been historically.

“If the issues are resolved, we will be the first country that will benefit. This is very natural. [We will gain] what has been lost over the past few years.”

Asked if UAE businesses would follow the hotel chain Rotana with plans to invest in Iran, he said: “In different ways – taking the success stories that the UAE have reachieved over the past few years, a lot of it can be copied in Iran based on the participation of UAE businesses and companies in Iran.”

Mr Al Mansouri cited “areas of strength” for the UAE – including the aviation, tourism, logistics and transport sectors – that could participate in new investment opportunities.

The trading partnership with Iran, he added, would have to go beyond petrochemicals. It could be expanded to include new avenues such as renewable energy or could tap into Iran’s agricultural clout through food processing, he said.

He added that he did not expect oil prices to drop if western sanctions were lifted on Iranian crude.

“I think the market has already stabilised because the demand from the world is also increasing.”

The European Union and the United States recently suspended some sanctions against Iran, amid renewed talks over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Separately, Mr Al Mansouri declined to weigh in on investment talks between Etihad Ariways and the Italian carrier Altalia.

His remarks came ahead of an expected visit by the Italian prime minister in early February.

“I think this is between Etihad and Alitalia to discuss, as this is not at a government level. [Etihad] has to calculate and make sure that from an economic point of view its correct for them.”

The Etihad chief executive, James Hogan, said this month that his company would not be rushed into taking a stake in Alitalia.