The chamber was founded in 2015 with the aim of expanding business between the two countries. While doors did not fully open when the sanctions were finally lifted on 16 January 2016, initial signs are good.
“We’re in the preliminary stage. There are investors thinking of using Luxembourg to invest in Europe,” Iralux executive board member Mahmoud Koutchesfahani said during an interview.
There appears to be a strong interest from both the government and private sector, with several exchanges and seminars in the past two years. In May a group from Luxembourg’s young manager’s federation will visit Iran for five days and a new mission is expected later in the year. The last economic mission from Luxembourg visited Iran in October 2016 with a delegation of 76 people representing 40 companies.
“The outcome on the political and commercial level was extremely positive,” Koutchesfahani said of the visit.
Another improvement is the ease of access to obtain travel visas in Luxembourg and Iran, with which the chamber can assist by verifying a firm is legitimate.
But, not everything is rosy. Fellow board member Hassan Khalili-Araghi explained: “It still takes time.”
Among the barriers to boosting business with Iran are the many “layers of sanctions that are contradictory” since the US introduced its sanctions following the Iranian revolution in 1979. “Banks working with the US are not eager to work with Iran because they are afraid of the penalties”, he told Delano.
Companies will not give up so easily. Iran has huge potential, with billions of US dollars from Iran frozen around the world, mostly from oil. And potential business opportunities span a wide range of sectors, including anything from the financial sector to pharmaceuticals, agriculture and manufacture.
Koutchesfahani stated: “Therefore companies everywhere in Europe, even in the US, are pushing, lobbying in favour of relaxing sanctions or removing all of the barriers to be able to work with Iran.”
And the two members say they already have a head start when it comes to convincing people in Luxembourg of the appeal of working with Iranian firms.
“Positive about Iran”
Koutchesfahani says: “The Luxembourg community has always been very positive about Iran, especially with the history of the country and its culture. People have been travelling to Iran for years. What they like is the people and the reception they receive in various cities.”