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Win-win thinking; a path to the future

Sharif Nezam Mafi is the Vice President of Iran Switzerland Chamber of Commerce and Regional Director of Central Eurasia for the Swiss company BUHLER AG. MBA from Suffolk University in Boston and former Senior Manager of American Express in New York. A man who looks calm but serious in work, for whom \”discipline\” seems important which was simply noticed by attending the office at Buhler. We had a dialogue with him about Iran –Switzerland Chamber of Commerce, economic and diplomatic relations between the two countries and the private sector.

Interview with Sedayeh Eghtesad; Persian online magazine

In the past year, according to new government approach, how was figure out the development of relations between Iran and Switzerland?
As you know, Switzerland is a neutral country, while is responsible for the interests of the United States; and the Swiss ambassador is responsible of these interests. He is not defining the policy, rather he acts as an intermediary. So it can be said that relations between Iran and Switzerland is highly sensitive. On the other hand, Switzerland is an important country in Europe, an influential country in the world, and I believe whatever we can do to expand our relationship with this country our voice will be better heard by the outside world.

How do you assess the status of today’s economy?
After the presidential election, we can say that that the situation has became easier. Using this word, we have to consider where we were during last 8 years and where we are today. This is why I’m saying it’s easier, but if you ask me if it is normal, I would say, no. There are still many steps to be taken and there are many gaps that do not allow the two countries to trade with each other easily. But finally with the help of the Swiss Embassy and the Iran Chamber of Commerce, we were able to form the Iran – Switzerland Chamber of Commerce. This move has been welcomed by many Swiss and Iranian companies which have joined the Chamber. Switzerland is a country that is economically complementary to Iran, and that they produce goods that we need in our industry and vice versa. For example the natural gas that we can deliver to Switzerland for their consumption is an important point. They had also realized that and they would like to replace the gas provided by Russia by the Iranian one. The Swiss authorities are also interested to have strong links with Iran in the long run, and they would like to have Iran as a partner in their economy, given there is a 5+1 agreement.

Currently, how many members have the Iran and Switzerland Chamber of Commerce?
We have 80 active members among which 30 are Swiss or Swiss-Iranian companies and the remaining are Iranians companies which work, trade, or have economic relations with Switzerland.

Given the political, economics, diplomatic relationship what is the rule of Iran – Switzerland Chamber of Commerce?
In my opinion, one of the most important rules of this chamber is the re-introduction of Iran to Swiss businessmen and entrepreneurs. They have totally forgotten Iran or they have scraped Iran on their economic relations, however; the formation of the Iran Switzerland Chamber of Commerce has allowed the re-positioning of our country and our economy vis-a-vis our Swiss counterparts.
Nine months ago, an Iranian economic and trade delegation went to Switzerland from our Chamber, which was welcomed by the Minister of Economy of Switzerland (SECO). On this trip we had a meeting with SECO to discuss common problems in the banking sector, and to talk about the sanctions pressures on Swiss companies
This trip, we had various meeting with Swiss entrepreneurs and businessmen, and discussion about the potential and challenges of economic exchanges and bilateral negotiations were conducted widely.

How many people formed the Iranian delegation?
Our delegation of five was formed by 3 officials from three private companies and two members of the chamber. This delegation came entirely from the private sector and represented the voice of this sector. It is very important that the Swiss companies saw the private sector is playing a strong role in the Iranian economy. For free economies like Switzerland, it is important to see that the private sector is active and has a role to play.

A part of negotiations what other achievements did you get on this trip?
One of the biggest improvements that we obtained on this trip was that we negotiated the re-activation of the bank account of one of the local charity association active on children with cancer.

What was the name of this association?
Let us not talk about the name because it’s certainly they might not be interested being mentioned, I can only say that they are one of the largest organizations in this field.

How was the amount that was blocked?
I don’t know. We did not speak of details of the account, but rather on the principle of it. I also spoke with the SECO minister on what is considered humanitarian and should be included within the 5+1.
However, you also have to understand their position. I mean Switzerland’s status as an economy with high level economic relations with the US government and the private sector must be understood and appreciated. We should have a good look at their limitations vis-avis Iran and try to find solutions that are mutually beneficial to both countries. We must solve international problems with win-win thinking rather than zero sum outcomes