Iran may join Russian-led free trade zone

Iran is expected to enter the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in the near future, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Novak revealed on Tuesday.

“We agreed to remove all barriers that currently exist in the way of developing trade between our countries. And we are talking about lowering barriers at the borders of third countries,” Novak said during a meeting of the intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Iran.

The EEU, which is based on the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, was established in 2015. It was later joined by Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. In 2016, Vietnam officially became the first non-regional country to become a member of the bloc. The union is designed to ensure the free movement of goods, services, capital, and workers between member nations.

More than 50 countries and international organizations, including China, Indonesia, Jordan, Thailand, and some South American countries, have expressed an interest in a free-trade deal with the EEU.

According to Novak, the volume of trade between Russia and Iran has been growing at a “record pace.” It was up by over 36% in January-August in annual terms, hitting $3.3 billion. The Deputy PM expressed confidence the figure could soon reach $4 billion.

Cooperation between Russia and Iran started rapidly expanding amid Western sanctions on Moscow and Tehran. Since the start of the year, they have reached a number of agreements, including to barter supplies of Iranian turbines, spare parts, and aircraft equipment, and also for the joint construction of gas pipelines and field development, as well as for visa-free travel for tourist groups from Russia.

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