EU can protect businesses threatened by US Iran sanctions: minister

EU can protect businesses threatened by US Iran sanctions: minister
The French finance minister said the European Union should take a tougher stance against Washington's threat to sanction European businesses operating in Iran.
2 min read
French finance minister Bruno Le Maire at a conference in Paris [Getty]

France is determining whether the EU could compensate businesses that are subject to US sanctions for doing business in Iran, the country's finance minister said on Sunday.

Bruno Le Maire cited EU rules that would allow the body to intervene if businesses are threatened with US sanctions, saying he wanted the EU to take a tougher stance.

In 1996, when the US attempted to slap European businesses with fines for trading with Cuba, the EU threatened retaliatory sanctions and Washington backed down.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and called on European businesses to wind down their operations within months. 

European leaders, along with Russia and China, the other parties to the P5+1 nuclear accord, were criticial of Trump's decision.

"Are we going to allow the United States to be the economic policeman of the world? The answer is no," Le Maire said on Sunday.

Iran's trade with the European Union is around 20 billion euros per year.

Iran has the fourth-largest oil reserves and second-largest gas reserves in the world. The vast majority of EU purchases from Iran — 90 per cent — is oil, going mainly to France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany and the Netherlands.

Most observers say China and Russia could benefit from ramping up economic ties to Iran in the fallout of Washington's decision to leave the nuclear deal, as both countries are less vulnerable to US economic pressure. 

Previously, French President Emmanuel Macron travelled to Washington to convince Trump to stick to the deal signed under his predecessor Barack Obama. 

Agencies contributed to this report.

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