his excellency Ambassador Markus Leitner
Business is resilient, by definition. Business constantly needs to adapt to changing demands, market outlooks and government regulations. While this resilience has been proven during the most recent sanctions period, the COVID-19 pandemic will provide the ultimate test. Today, Swiss companies will need – more than ever – information, support and guidance to be able to successfully operate in Iran. To serve these needs best, a close collaboration between the private and the public sector, in particular between companies and the Iran-Switzerland Chamber of Commerce as well as the Embassy, will be essential. Switzerland is committed to support and further develop business relations with Iran. Since the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement in May 2018 and reintroduced unilateral sanctions, the financing of trade and investments has become a particular challenge. Although trade with humanitarian goods, where Swiss companies play a key role, are exempt from US sanctions, hardly any financial institution is willing to make payments in connection with Iran.
The few remaining payment channels are expensive, complex and not very reliable. Switzerland has therefore been working hard on the establishment of a secure payment channel enabling exporters based in Switzerland to sell agricultural commodities, food, medicines and medical equipment to the Iranian population.
This is in line with Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition. The so called Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) came into effect on 27 February 2020, after an initial payment for the shipment of medicines to Iran by a Swiss pharmaceutical company was successfully executed at the end of January 2020. Companies and trading partners based in Switzerland are currently registering with SHTA, and Iranian funds allowing for the payment of the Iranian purchases are transferred to bank accounts in Switzerland.
The SHTA is a wonderful example of a successful collaboration between the private and the public sector. It was developed in close cooperation not only with the relevant authorities in Iran and the US, but also with selected Swiss banks and companies. The SHTA is a powerful and effective tool to boost Swiss trade and investments in Iran while providing Iran with medical products, pharmaceuticals and food items.
The Embassy and the Chamber enjoy excellent relations. Over the past months, we worked together in a variety of areas and illustrated how a fruitful private public partnership works. Following the signing of a MoU between the Chamber and UNICEF, the Embassy has been involved in the organization of different workshops discussing responsible business practices of companies active in Iran and the needs of children and young people.
The Embassy was contributing to the successful global grain and oilseeds community gathering, iranGrain, organized by the Chamber, and was joining ISCC as well as the Iran-Austria Chamber of Commerce and the Austrian Embassy at the traditional annual Ski race. The Embassy participated in the joint networking gathering with the Iran-Austria Chamber of Commerce at Darolfonoon School in Tehran and has, of course, been helping blowing out the 5 candles on the Chambers birthday cake in April 2019.
Likewise, the Chamber has been associated to many events of the Embassy, like business breakfasts or working dinners, briefing sessions and in-depth exchanges in smaller circles as well as bigger social gatherings like receptions, networking events or the yearly Swiss national day celebration.
The Embassy relies on a strong, broad-based and vibrant bilateral Chamber who serves the interests of its members. Together, we can support Swiss-Iranian trade and investments in a time when this support is more needed than ever.
Ambassador Markus Leitner