18:42 GMT +323 September 2018
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    European Businesses in Iran: Expert Explains How to Get Around US Sanctions

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    French President Emmanuel Macron has said Paris will continue to work with the existing Iran deal and considers it the best way to control Iran’s nuclear activity. Macron made this statement at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who's trying to lobby European leaders against the nuclear deal.

    Sputnik has discussed this with Sophie GaBillot, head of the Tehran office of the French law firm Cohen Amir-Aslani, which opened after the signing of the Iran nuclear agreement.

    "Europe has recently expressed its willingness to support a nuclear agreement, but unless a concrete solution is found within reasonable time, this will not have a positive affect on the companies against which US sanctions are imposed."

    READ MORE: US Anti-Iran Sanctions Put EU Companies at Risk: What Do They Say?

    Although Emmanuel Macron has expressed the possibility of discussing a new agreement, which dilutes the European position and the statements of the 4 +1 group, according to Mrs. GaBillot, this does not negate France's desire to stay in the country:

    "In France, there is a will to finance (the presence of companies in Iran), but, unfortunately, it is not specified. This is a noble intention, and a lot of effort has been put into its implementation, but, unfortunately, this has not happened yet."

    Some French, Australian, Chinese, Japanese, German, English and Italian companies have already been advised to stop their activities in Iran (they do not have American clients). Despite the fact that resumption of sanctions has brought about "some chaos" and that measures proposed by Europeans not being enough to make companies think about the longevity of their presence in Iran, Mrs. GaBillot notes that some companies hadn't lost their spirit and continue to develop dynamically. This is primarily the case for small and medium businesses:

    "Small and medium-sized companies are an attractive market segment and bring positive energy to Iran, as they are less affected by US sanctions and they have a wider field of maneuver to decide whether to continue doing business in Iran."

    In terms of what's being to help other business, well, after Trump announced the withdrawal from the agreement, European institutions have proposed several solutions, for example, reactivating a 1996 blocking regulation against US sanctions on Iran.

    "As for the amendments to the sanctions legislation, which would allow the nullification of the extraterritorial effect of US sanctions, this is an interesting option, but there are specific limitations. This law will not help companies developing their business in the US, if it's not amended and not given greater extraterritoriality."

    READ MORE: 'EU's Stance Will Be Decisive': How Iran Sanctions Affect German Banks

    According to Sophie GaBillot, the EU is no longer considering this option. The lawyer mentioned another solution: the creation of a financial control mechanism similar to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the United States:

    "What would the European Office do? It is not yet clear how the European Office can help companies get around US sanctions, or to continue business in Iran, without being subjected to US sanctions which would affect their activities."

    This Office of Foreign Assets Control is responsible for the application of financial sanctions at the international level. Despite the fact that in France several Treasury employees are responsible for this, it does not have a corresponding organization like the European institutions.

    It should be noted that the two measures above do not solve the financial problem.

    "It's not the first time the issue of financing by the European Investment Bank has come up in the EU. But when will this happen? When will companies that can continue to cooperate with Iran benefit from this?"

    GaBillot explains that these systems are still at the embryonic stage. As for the use of the American currency in international trade, the lawyer stresses:

    "This problem has always existed. Even before the introduction of sanctions, it was not allowed to resort to the American financial system in deals with Iran. This restriction has never been lifted. Sanctions were supposed to be canceled in 2023."

    The views and opinions expressed by the contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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