The Islamic Republic of Iran stopped publishing economic data, including figures on its foreign trade since March 21, 2019, as a serious economic downturn triggered by U.S. sanctions set in. But Iran’s major trading partners regularly issue their official figures, which for 2019 show a significant decline in Iran’s trade with China, South Korea and others.
Compared with 2018, Iran's trade with China and South Korea in 2019 shows more than 34 and 60 percent declines, respectively.
The trend of declining trade accelerated during the year, after the United States in May stopped offering sanctions exemptions to friendly countries to import oil from Iran. For example, in November 2019, China imported 547,758 tons of Iranian oil, down from 3.07 million tons in April, according to China's General Administration of Customs.
India and Japan also released their annual reports on trade with Iran on January 30.
According to the Indian Ministry of Finance, exports to Iran amounted to $3.86 billion in 2019, which shows more than a 37% increase compared with the previous year. However, in the same period, India's imports from Iran show a three-fold decline, plunging to $3.4 billion.
It is for the first time that the value of Indian exports to Iran has overtaken its imports from the Islamic Republic, as India has stopped buying Iranian oil since May.
Japan, on the other hand, says that its exports to Iran in 2019 show an eleven-fold decline compared with 2018, dropping to a mere $66 million, while imports from Iran show a three-fold contraction, declining to $1.16 billion.
Imports from Iran in 2018 totaled $3.5 billion, of which almost all were crude oil and other fossil fuels. Japanese exports to Iran in 2018 totaled $710 million, consisting mainly of vehicles and general machinery.
Furthermore, the latest reports on EU trade with Iran also refers to a sharp decline.
Iran exported €648.32 million (approximately $719 million) worth of commodities to the EU during the eleven months in 2019, indicating a 93.06% fall compared with the similar period in the previous year.
In the same period, Iranian imports from the EU fell by 51.82% to stand at €4.08 billion (roughly $4.5 billion).
The top five exporters from the European Union bloc to Iran were Germany with $1.4 billion, Italy with $827 million, the Netherlands with $487 million, France with $382 million, and Belgium with $234 million worth of shipments to Iran.
The decline in trade goes hand in hand with a huge drop in Iran's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which according to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank declined around nine percent in 2019.
Another major Iranian trade partner is Turkey. Based on the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) figures, Ankara's exports to its eastern neighbor, in the first eleven months of 2019, amounted to $2.1 billion, or nearly $200 million less than the same period in 2018, and about $1.5 billion less than 2017.
In the same period, Turkey imported nearly $3.2 billion of products from Iran. The figures for the same period in 2018 and 2017 were about $6.8 billion and almost $7 billion, respectively, Turkstat reported.
Therefore, total trade between Turkey and Iran in 2019 shows an almost 40% decline, compared to 2018, and a 50% fall compared to 2017.
United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iraq are also among Iran’s major trading partners, but they have still not published official reports on their business with the Islamic Republic.