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China's Imports From Iran Drop 52 Percent In First Quarter Of 2020

An Iranian tanker and a South Korean (R) tanker are docked at the platform of the oil facility in the Khark Island, on the shore of the Persian Gulf. File photo

The latest figures released by China’s customs show imports from Iran dropped 52.7 percent in the first quarter of 2020, reaching an all-time low of $1.8 billion.

China released its trade figures on Friday April 24, showing its exports to Iran grew by 16 percent reaching over $2.1 billion, in the same quarter compared with 2019.

The main reason for the drop of imports from Iran is U.S. sanctions that have cut off most of its crude exports. China was the biggest customer of Iranian oil, importing hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil from Iran before full U.S. sanctions kicked in last May.

This is the first time in recent decades when China’s exports to Iran surpassed its imports, leaving Tehran with a trade imbalance with Beijing.

Iran was exporting 2.5 million barrels of crude daily in 2018, before U.S. sanctions were imposed. Now, according to the latest data by tanker tracking companies it exports just 170,000 barrels a day, with China taking 82,000 barrels and the rest going to Syria.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts Iran’s to have an $18 billion trade deficit in 2020, due to lack of oil exports. This deficit can get much bigger if oil prices stay low, hurting the prices of oil by-products and natural gas.