Expert Slams S Korea’s Cherry Picking Economic Ties with Iran

Expert Slams S Korea’s Cherry Picking Economic Ties with Iran
South Korean and Japanese companies are still active in investing and collecting benefits from the tobacco sector in Iran, but at the same time refuse to continue cooperation in the pharmaceuticals citing US’ anti-Tehran bans, an expert said, adding that South Korean and Japanese officials must be held accountable for such a duplicity. “No one is there to ask officials from Japan and South Korea why you are able to invest in the cigarette sector ... but avoid doing the same in the automotive sector and in the pharmaceuticals,” Behzad Khosravi Adinehvand told the IRIB News on Sunday. He added that Japanese and South Korean companies had remained active in Iran’s tobacco sector while they keep refraining from helping Iran cope with sanctions that have affected its vital industries like pharmaceuticals and the automotives. Khosravi Adinehvand said companies from Japan and South Korea have invested around $150 million in a year in cigarette production and tobacco processing in Iran under licenses issued by American and British companies. The expert criticized the duplicity in the way the American sanctions are enforced, saying the lucrative tobacco industry in Iran has been categorized as part of the food sector so that foreigners can keep profiteering from a huge demand that exist for international brands in the country. He said Winston cigarettes had an annual share of around $3 billion in the Iranian market, while Marlboro pockets nearly $1 billion, adding that other subsidiary brands and companies from Japan and South Korea sell another $3 billion worth of cigarettes and tobacco products inside Iran.    Khosravi Adinehvand said demand for tobacco in Iran had soared five-fold over the post 10 years to reach 10,000 tons a year, a major incentive for foreign companies to increase investment in the country. He said Iran’s production of cigarettes could only respond to less than a third of the domestic demand which is around 100 billion cigarettes a year, or five billion packs of 20. The expert said the Iranian government had a meager share of the revenues generated in the $4.2-billion cigarette industry in the country although studies suggest that national health agencies spend more than $2.5 billion annually on treatment of diseases caused by smoking. Many critics believe that South Korea's foreign economic relations has been heavily dependent on US since the cold war era. Last month, an Iranian Member of Parliament (MP) lashed out at South Korea for abiding by the US unilateral sanctions against Iran, warning Seoul that refusing to export key pharmaceuticals to his country is a blatant violation of international law which would have dire consequences for the Far-Eastern country. Rapporteur of Iranian Parliament’s Health Commission Akbar Torki said a halt to exports of key drugs and pharmaceutical materials to Iran was inhumane and should be regarded as a breach of international rules and conventions. “Given the trade relations we have with this country (South Korea), this move is absolutely reprehensible,” he added. The lawmaker said a halt to export of drugs to Iran over American sanctions was reminiscent of a ban on delivery of mobile phones to Iranian athletes during the Winter Olympic Games held in South Korea last year. Torki warned that a continued ban would lead to consequences for Seoul as Iran would decide to reciprocate by banning imports of certain products from South Korea. Business activists echoed similar concerns, saying that the South Korean government has not done enough to ensure that exports of pharmaceutical products to Iran continues. “We expect that the (South) Korean government solves the banking problems with special care,” said Pouya Firouzi, who serves as the secretary of Iran-South Korea joint chamber of commerce, on Saturday. Firouzi said pharmaceuticals are supposed to be exempt from the sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran since last year. However, he said South Korean Banks had backtracked from their commitments to process payments related to drug exports to Iran mainly because of the American sanctions. “Although sanctions are unacceptable in their entirety, food and medicine are exempt from sanction channels and banking problems should not have an impact on import of such products,” said the businessman.