TEHRAN – As two powerhouses in the region and the world, Iran and Russia have been interacting on various levels for long, however, the two countries' relations have taken a completely new form following Moscow’s conflict with Ukraine.

 

Now, faced with sanctions, Moscow has become seriously inclined toward its old ally Iran in order to benefit from the valuable experiences of the Islamic Republic whose economy has adapted greatly to the sanction conditions, and also to use Iran’s capacities as a major economic player in the region to expand its trade ties.

In this regard, over the past few months, Russia has been taking major steps toward establishing a whole new foreign policy, the cornerstone of which has been economic relations with the Islamic Republic. Senior officials from the two sides have been meeting and visiting each other to consolidate bilateral cooperation in various fields, including energy, oil, gas, and transit, as well as diplomatic and political relations.

As the most significant event among the mentioned exchanges, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin visited Tehran in mid-July to attend the 7th Summit of the Guarantor States of the Astana Process.

During his stay in Tehran, the Russian President met with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei and President Raisi and exchanged views on the recent development in the world and in the relations between the two countries.

Less than two months after Putin’s visit, now a delegation comprising 100 representatives from 65 Russian companies visited Tehran last week to explore areas of cooperation with Iranian counterparts.

In the commission organized by the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (TCCIMA), Russian and Iranian businessmen and traders held B2B meetings at Spinas Palace Hotel in Tehran for three consecutive days.

The outcomes of these meetings are expected to be hugely significant for the two sides’ economic relations in the future.

Tehran Times conducted interviews with TCCIMA Deputy Head for International Affairs Hesamedin Hallaj as the organizer of the event along with some of the Russian traders who attended this commission in order to draw a comprehensive picture of the event and its expected outcomes.

A plan for greater economic collaborations

Asked about the purpose of the commission and the results that the two sides are expecting to get from this event, Hallaj said the event has been organized jointly by TCCIMA and the Russian Export Center under the framework of the Made-In-Russia Project.

“Some 65 Russian companies active in various fields including agriculture, food industries, energy, petrochemicals, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, minerals, machinery, etc. are participating in this event and are currently meeting with capable Iranian counterparts,” he said.

“The interest and enthusiasm from both sides are way more than what we expected and it seems that despite being neighbors, businessmen of the two countries haven’t had the chance to get familiar with each other's capabilities so far and now they are seizing this opportunity to do so,” Hallaj told the Tehran Times.

According to the official, during the first two days of the event, over 400 B2B meetings were held between Iranian and Russian companies, and on the third day, knowledge-based companies of the two countries were supposed to meet and explore avenues of future cooperation.

Regarding the major focus and goal of the Russian companies’ presence in the Iranian market, Hallaj said: “They are here to promote their products, to export, to transit, and to co-product with Iranian partners.”

“Of course, for now, these meetings are mainly focused on familiarity of the two sides with each other and exchange of information; but several agreements and memorandums are also expected to be signed between Iranian and Russian companies at the end of the program,” he added.

Iran, Land of Opportunities

When asked about their expectations and experiences, most of the Russian representatives who were visiting Iran for the first time would say that they were pleasantly surprised by the capacities and capabilities of their Iranian counterparts.

Nikolai Nikulshin, a head project manager at CMV Group which is a Russian company active in the field of mobile harbor cranes and ship cranes, told the Tehran Times that he was shocked by the advances that the Iranian companies have achieved over the past two decades and expressed eagerness for collaborating with Iranian companies to establish joint ventures and also after-sale service centers for their cranes.

“We are also getting to know about Iran’s business-related rules and regulations through our Iranian counterparts and these meetings have provided a great opportunity for us in this regard,” he said.

Alexey Baranov, Commercial Director of Dom-Story Company, which is a company active in the production and distribution of coniferous woods, said: “We have had many discussions with Iranian companies and there is a great market in Iran for our products.”

“Before the sanctions, our prices were somehow high for the Iranian clientele and they were not inclined to purchase our products but now we have decreased our prices significantly and also offering good discounts for Iranian buyers,” Baranov said.

Konstantin Muravin, a technical engineer with SKB EP LLC which is a company active in the production of unique innovative devices for the state monitoring of high-voltage circuit breakers, told the Tehran Times that his company was going to hold training courses for Iranian engineers in order to transfer their knowledge into the Islamic Republic.

Andrey Trofimov, the CEO of SCOUT Group, a company providing fleet racking and analysis services, believed that establishing joint ventures is the best way for win-win collaboration between Russian and Iranian private companies.

He said, having 15 years of experience in the Iranian market “I have learned a lot and know greatly about the potential of the Iranian market.”

“Iran is the land of opportunities,” Trofimov said.

Last words

From what I learned during this three-day event, it can be said confidently that both Iranian and Russian private sectors are eager for expanding cooperation, however, in my opinion, it is up to Iranian companies to make their Russian counterparts more and more familiar with their capabilities and capacities and to convince them to forge long-term deals.

The sanctions have provided this opportunity for the two countries’ private sectors to get to know each other and to benefit from the huge markets that await them and hopefully, this is not just a fleeting excitement.