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PayvandNews - Iran and Australia have signed fresh agreements to forge closer ties, with Austrian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo announcing the dawn of a new age of relationship. Ciobo is leading a trade delegation of more than 20 companies to Tehran, seeking out opportunities, buoyed by the prospects in Iran's mining, oil and gas, and other industries as well as the near 80 million population.
Representatives of Australia's export credit agency EFIC and Export Guarantee Fund of Iran (EGFI) exchange documents after signing an MoU in Tehran, Sept. 28, 2016. (Photo by IRNA)
"We are in the dawn of a new age of the relationship with Iran," Ciobo told a gathering of business leaders in Tehran on Tuesday night.
One of the agreements will help the Australian and Iranian banking sectors collaborate and share information. Another will share Australian expertise and technologies to help Iran manage scarce water resources.
Companies such as Woodside Petroleum, engineering company WorleyParsons and Australian Water Partnership seek to capitalize on historically strong economic ties to stake out a share of business opportunities in Iran.
Representatives of Australia's flagship carrier Qantas Airways, global biotechnology company Cochlear, GrainCorp agribusiness company, Australian Livestock Export Corporation Ltd (LiveCorp) and the universities of Melbourne and Sydney are also tagging along.
At its peak, Australia exported almost $1 billion worth of goods to Iran before nuclear sanctions slashed the trade to below $350 million.
Head of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines Gholam Hossein Shafei said Iran is targeting a trade plateau of $10 billion with Australia.
He said Australia's import market of $200 billion, especially in the oil and petrochemical field, is very important to Iran and the country cannot ignore it.
On Wednesday, Australia's export credit agency EFIC and Export Guarantee Fund of Iran (EGFI) signed a fourth MoU to facilitate trade and help businesses navigate challenges arising from sanctions which still continue to dog dealings with Iran.
"There remain challenges around banking facilitation in dealing with Iran ... I would just stress this is not a line of credit between the two agencies, so it won't in that respect mean that commercial export finance is easier to obtain," Ciobo said.
Australian natural health company Blackmores became one of the first businesses to secure a deal with local firm Tasnim Pharm, allowing it access to Iran's market for vitamins and dietary supplements that is estimated to be worth at least $585 million a year.
Under the agreement, Tasnim Pharma will sell 10 Blackmores products over the coming year before ramping up to 25 products, with the Iranian company setting up a new division to manage the brand and distribution.
Blackmores Managing Director in Asia Peter Osborne said the company would bring the benefits of its research and education arm to Iran through the Blackmores Institute, which is aimed at improving the use of natural medicine.
Blackmores Chief Executive Christine Holgate said Iran is considered the "largest untapped market globally" with growth "well into double digits."
"Working with Austrade and having a strong local partner in Tasnim Pharma is a low-risk entry into a market considered very complex," she said.