Reuters said the US Department of the Treasury announced that the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Agreement (SHTA) is fully operational and noted that it is the first channel established under a US framework announced in October 2019 to facilitate humanitarian trade with Iran.
Last week, the US special representative for Iran Brian Hook said there was a lot of interest from food and drug companies in using the SHTA, which began trial operations last month with shipments of medicine.
The channel had started pilot operation last month after a shipment consisting of medicine valued at approximately €2.3 million was sent to Iran.
The SHTA seeks to ensure that Swiss-based exporters and trading companies in the food, pharmaceutical and medical sectors have a secure payment channel with a Swiss bank, through which payments for their exports to Iran are guaranteed.
Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from the sanctions that Washington re-imposed on Tehran after President Donald Trump walked away from a 2015 international deal over Iran’s nuclear program.
But the US measures targeting everything from oil sales to shipping and financial activities have deterred several foreign banks from doing business with Iran - including humanitarian deals.
In response to the trial operation of the Swiss channel last month, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iran Abdolnasser Hemmati described the move as insufficient because it does not cover bank transactions.
"The US government's claims could be termed as valid if they permit banking transactions for humanitarian goods," Hemmati said.
In a similar vein, head of Iran-Switzerland Joint Chamber of Commerce, Sharif Nezam-Mafi, said the efficiency of the mechanism depends on the amount of money the CBI injects into it.
He noted that except for the Geneva-based bank BCP, two Iranian banks are also taking part in the plan, namely Saman Bank and Middle East Bank.
The US administration has also been criticized by Tehran for making false claims about exempting humanitarian goods from the new restrictions, as the country faces serious challenges for purchasing medicine and agricultural goods.
First Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri earlier described the measure as a promotional item, rejecting claims by the Trump team over exemption of food and medicine from the list of sanctions.