Iran-EU trade turnover declined significantly in the second half of 2018 due to U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The United States withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran in May last year and imposed financial and industrial sanctions on Tehran in August, followed by sanctions on its oil exports and banking sector in November.
According to the European Commission’s official figures, the 28-member union exported €8.9 billion to Iran in 2018, about 17.6 percent less than 2017, while their imports from Iran declined 4 percent year-on-year to €9.72 billion.
The details of statistics indicate that Iran’s exports to the EU started to plummet in mid-2018, as most European clients stopped buying oil from Iran. Oil is the largest part of Iran’s exports to the EU.
The EU’s exports to Iran also dropped in November and December 2018.
The statistics indicate that oil and petroleum products constitute about 90 percent of Iran’s total exports to the EU.
During the previous round of international sanctions (2012-2016), Iran-EU trade decreased dramatically, but it began to rise again after the sanctions were lifted.
Trade with Iran constitutes only about 0.5% of the EU’s total foreign trade, but the EU has a more than 20% share in Iran’s total imports.
It is not only the EU that has suffered in trade with Iran due to U.S. sanctions. China, Iran's biggest trade partner and oil importer, also decreased trade with Iran during the final months of 2018.
India, Iran's second-biggest oil buyer, saw its imports from Iran increase from $11.1 billion in 2017 to $14.787 billion in 2018, while its imports from Iran increased 9.82% to $2.86 billion. However, in late 2018 Iran’s exports to India dropped more than half after Iran's oil exports plunged, according to India’s Department of Commerce.
Turkey is also one of Iran's major trade partners, and it imports Iranian oil, as well. According to Turkey’s official statistics, its trade with Iran was affected by U.S. sanctions.
Souring U.S. and Russian exports to Iran
Unlike other trade partners, the United States and Russia increased exports to Iran significantly in 2018.
The United States increased exports to Iran 262 percent in January-November 2018 to $435.5 million, while U.S. imports from Iran increased 24 percent to $67 million. In the last few months of 2018, Iran’s exports to the EU reached about zero, but U.S. exports to Iran increased dramatically.
The United States hasn’t published statistics for December yet.