February 9, 2016

Exuberance in Europe, Restraint in America: Iran Sanctions Realities

Iran has made its debut. Since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the U.S.-led nuclear deal with Iran, took effect on January 16, Iran has orchestrated a flurry of diplomatic activity between European trade ministers, while courting attention from Russia and China. Yet, the United States is the wallflower at the party. Iran now seeks as much as $50 billion in foreign direct investment per year after the lifting of U.N. and EU sanctions with the implementation of the JCPOA. Iran’s gross domestic product growth target of 8 percent per year would require about $90 billion in foreign investment and external financing, according to Moody’s. Iran’s targets are ambitious, but not unprecedented in its recent history, as data from Emirates NBD and Bloomberg suggest.

These are ambitious targets, and the Iranian government is both articulating these goals and speedily initiating conversations with potential investors. There are visits and trade delegations, promises, and expressions of mutual interest. Iran has created an emerging market euphoria not seen since the early 1990s when the former Socialist republics opened their doors to foreign direct investment and privatization schemes. Journalists have called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Europe at the end of January a “shopping spree,” while a cottage industry of “fixers” has emerged to help open doors to foreign investors in Iran.