Baku, Azerbaijan, Dec. 14
By Farhad Daneshvar - Trend:
The US House of Representatives vote to tighten the visa-free travel appears to have negative impact on measures taken by Tehran to lure foreign investment aimed at renewing its ageing industry and economy.
The latest amendments to the US Visa Waiver Program would also partially violate at least one article of a landmark nuclear deal reached between Tehran and the world powers in July 2015.
The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of about 38 countries, mostly European, to travel to the United States for tourism, business, or while in transit for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa. The amendment to the program imposes restrictions on foreigners who intend to visit the US.
Visa reforms - "magic pill" to discourage foreign investors
The legislation would prevent many foreign nationals or those who hold dual citizenship, including thousands of Iranians, who have visited "hot spot countries" - Iran, Syria, Iraq and Sudan over the past five years, from entering the US without a visa.
Apparently, aimed at preventing possible terrorist threats, the US House of Representatives passed the legislation intended to limit certain travel privileges granted to citizens of 38 foreign countries in the aftermath of attacks in Paris and California.
Eventually under the bill (namely HR158), citizens of many EU countries as well as others, including Japan and Australia, who travel to Iran for business or other purposes, will have to obtain a visa if they wish to visit the US. This would surely discourage lots of investors and firms from visiting the Islamic Republic.
Profits vs hopes
According to the July nuclear deal, financial sanctions imposed by the West against Iran, its banking system and industry over Tehran's nuclear program, are expected to be lifted in return for scaling down the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.
The ongoing political process between Tehran and the world powers has created hope for international investors to reap fat profits and Tehran to renew its ailing economy and industry. Currently Iran is making efforts to increase its export capacity, particularly in petroleum sector, in preparation for the lifting of nuclear sanctions.
Dozens of international economic and industrial delegations, including many European firms, have been visiting Iran since July to discuss investments in the country's untapped market following the removal of the sanctions.
For instance, Iran proposed its new model of oil and gas contracts called Iran's Petroleum Contracts (IPC) during a two-day conference held Nov 28-29 aimed at luring foreign investment to develop the country's ageing petroleum industry with the participation of about seven heads of state.
Meanwhile Iran's Petroleum Ministry offered about 50 oil and gas projects to be developed by foreign countries with the participation of local partners.
As Iran suffers from financial recession, local stock markets have been bearish over the past months and most of shareholders have stopped trading shares and wait for the outcome of the nuclear deal, hoping that the foreign investments would revive the economy.
In case the HR158 legislation, which was backed by overwhelming bipartisan majority, becomes law by the end of the year, it would deter European business delegations from travelling to Iran which will foil all hopes to revive Iranian economy as well as earning profits.
HR158 may breach nuclear deal
In contrast, the legislation contradicts the Article 29 of JCPOA which states "the EU and its Member States and the United States, consistent with their respective laws, will refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran inconsistent with their commitments not to undermine the successful implementation of this JCPOA."
Iran expects most of the sanctions to be lifted under the milestone nuclear deal at the first month of the coming year.
While according to Iranian sources, the P5+1 has drafted a resolution to settle Iran's PMD file in the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors and the resolution is expected to be passed on December 15 by Board of Governors which is one of the basic conditions of the nuclear deal for lifting Iran's sanctions, the House of Representatives' recent legislation has caused concerns over the perspective of investment in Iran.
Since Iran has been known to be a country that has learned to deal with restrictions and adjust to finding ways of "getting it done", it won't be a surprise to see the Islamic Republic come up with totally fresh ideas on how to attract foreign investors to the country and keep its achieved nuclear deal. Both are fatally important to Iran and the country won't just let it go because of visa restrictions.
Farhad Daneshvar is Trend Agency's staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @farhad_danesh