Iran's Astara Customs Services head: Creation of free trade zone between Azerbaijan and Iran is one of region's needs (INTERVIEW)
Azerbaijan, Baku, April 16 / Trend T. Jafarov /
Iranian Astara Customs Services head Said Haji Firuzabadi spoke in an exclusive interview with Trend Persian Desk.
Q: What is the situation on the Azerbaijani-Iranian customs checkpoint after the introduction of visa-free regime for Azerbaijani citizens willing to visit Iran?
A: Since the execution of the law "Abolition of visa regime" February 1, 2010, the number of Azerbaijani citizens visiting Iran, has increased by 200 percent. This increase in recorded by the statistics on the number of foreign passengers entering through the Astara customs checkpoint from January 21 to March 20, 2010 compared to the same period in 2009.
For comparison, about 7,768 people entered the country through the Astara customs checkpoint from January 21 to February 19, 2009, but for the same period in 2010 this figure reached 15,642 people. The number of entering passengers amounted to 7,776 people from February 20 to March 20, 2009, but over the same period in 2010, this figure hit 32,879. During this period, the number increased by 322 percent.
Q: What obstacles are in the direction of expansion of trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Iran?
A: The volume of foreign trade transactions between Iran and Azerbaijan through Astara customs checkpoint was $27 981 286 last year (the year in Iran ends March 21). Products and goods (having non-commercial nature) belonging to Iranians and foreigners entering the country from the free economic zones and industrial zones are exempt from customs duties and taxes. The value of goods imported into the country once a year without payment of customs duties must not exceed $80.
If this value is exceeded, the goods are subject to customs duties and taxes. They can be brought into the country provided that it is not prohibited under the law, commerce and Sharia.
Passengers leaving the country (Iranians or foreigners), besides personal luggage, can take out the Iranian products in unlimited quantity. Export of the same products of other brands is allowed to the amount of not more than $80, provided that the passenger does not intend commercial purposes.
Export of antiquities, manuscripts, subsidized products is prohibited.
Each passenger can take out a hand-made carpet with not more than 12 square meters or two little rugs.
Foreigners who get education and work in Iran, after the end of service and education can take out personal belongings (in the normal amount) without the submission of trade cards and permits.
Q: How does the Astara customs point operate to ensure passengers' comfortable movement taking into account their growing number?
A: Astara customs office increased staff of qualified personnel at the point of entry and exit to create the conditions for the movement of passengers. There are special corridors for Iranian and foreign passengers.
In addition, after cancel of visa regime number of working hours increased. Despite the implementation of repair works on the bridge at the customs checkpoint, construction of a new bridge is planned for further development of ties between the two countries.
Q: What problems occur during Iranian and Azerbaijani citizens' entry and exit through Astara customs checkpoint? What measures are being taken to solve them?
A: Yes, some problems still remain unsolved. They include the excessive gathering of passengers at the Iranian Azerbaijani customs checkpoint, the discrepancy in the number of employees and passenger numbers (police, customs officers, bank employees) on the terminals. During exit from Azerbaijan, Iranian passengers stay too ling on the Azerbaijani side, especially on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
Holdups occur as a result of growth in the number of passengers and vehicles on the bridge.
At present, Iran's various agencies are in talks with the Azerbaijani customs office to solve these problems. An increase in customs staff is already observed. Currently, the problems of holdups and long lines are gradually solved, but large-scale works should be conducted in this area.
Q: How do you assess the level of cooperation between Iran and Azerbaijan's customs agencies?
A: Azerbaijani and Iranian customs officers once a month hold meetings at customs checkpoints. They discuss the problems that exist in the field of trade and issues of passengers' entry-exit. In addition, we continuously discuss and take actions to solve the existing problems over telephone.
Q: Is there a need for signing a treaty on the establishment of free economic zone in order to ensure ease of movement of goods between the two countries?
A: Azerbaijani populations meet unilateral cancel of the visa regime between Azerbaijan and Iran with gladness. The two countries' peoples are closely linked by strong historical and cultural ties, and I think that, the establishment of a free trade zone in order to increase cooperation of Iranian and Azerbaijani businessmen is one of the region's needs.