Paris, June 19, 2018 (AFP)
Most French companies hoping to keep doing business in Iran after the US imposes new sanctions on the country will find it impossible to do so, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Tuesday.
These companies "won't be able to stay because they need to be paid for the products they deliver to or build in Iran, and they cannot be paid because there is no sovereign and autonomous European financial institution" capable of shielding them, Le Maire told BFM television.
The new sanctions announced by US President Donald Trump in May after he pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran would punish any foreign firm operating in Iran which also does business with the US or in dollars.
"Our priority is to build independent, sovereign European financial institutions which would allow financing channels between French, Italian, German, Spanish and any other countries on the planet," Le Maire said.
"It's up to us Europeans to choose freely and with sovereign power who we want to do business with," he added.
"The United States should not be the planet's economic policeman."
Le Maire and his EU counterparts have been trying to secure exemptions for their firms, many of which rushed back into Iran after the landmark accord curtailing Tehran's nuclear programme.
But French oil group Total and carmaker PSA have already indicated they are unlikely to stay in the country, while Renault has said it will remain despite the sanctions -- though it does not sell its cars in the US.
Analysts have warned it would be nearly impossible to protect multinationals from the reach of the "extraterritorial" US measures, given the exposure of large banks to the US financial system and dollar transactions.
The first round of the new sanctions, targeting Iran's auto and civil aviation sectors, are scheduled to go into effect on August 6.