Iran's Azerbaijanis seek key role in Tehran-Baku trade

Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct. 20

By Farhad Daneshvar – Trend:

Iranian northwestern province of Ardabil and Azerbaijan share 370 kilometers of border. In addition to friendly and brotherly ties, people from Ardabil Province and Azerbaijan share same language and religion which create proper grounds for expansion of bilateral ties and economic cooperation.

Over the past week, a provincial delegation including members of several private companies accompanied Ardabil Province’s Governor General Majid Khodabakhsh during his visit to Azerbaijan and Russia, aimed at expansion of trade ties.

During his visit to Azerbaijan, the governor-general held talks with President Ilham Aliyev, Economy Minister Shahin Mustafayev, Minister of Agriculture Heydar Asadov, and Minister of Emergency Situations of Azerbaijan Colonel-General Kamaladdin Heydarov as well as Head of Sumgayit City Executive Authority Zakir Farajov.

Majid Khodabakhsh on October 19 attended a press conference in Baku to brief reporters on the outcomes of his visit.

According to Khodabakhsh, Economy Minister Shahin Mustafayev and Head of Azerbaijan’s Sumgayit City Executive Authority Zakir Farajov are expected to pay a visit to Ardabil over the current year to study opportunities for investment there.

Khodabaksh pointed to opportunities for joint investment between Iran and Azerbaijan, saying that proper opportunities exist for exporting joint products to third countries such as Russia.

Speaking about cooperation in agricultural sector, he invited Azerbaijani farmers to rent agricultural lands in Iran as there are vast lands in the country providing chances for cultivating crops in considerable amounts.

Coming to cooperation on industrial levels, he said that industrialists in Ardabil produce valves for oil industry as well as electric control units (ECU) which can be supplied to Azerbaijan.

Iranian government over the past three years has allocated $1.5 billion for developing Ardabil Province of which $500 million goes to developing the province’s power industry, he said.

Expressing support for those who invest in the province, the governor-general proposed cooperation in power sector between Ardabil Province and Azerbaijan as the province is capable of exporting power to Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.

He also touched upon opportunities for cooperation in the food industry and said Russia annually imports over $40 billion worth of food products which creates a unique chance for Azerbaijani and Iranian enterprises to supply their joint products in such a great market.

According to the official, the trade turnover between Iran and Azerbaijan over the past seven months has increased by 65 percent.

Ardabil exported about $57 million worth of products to Azerbaijan over the past year. Potatoes, poultry, ceramics and sanitary wares formed the majority of exported products to Azerbaijan from Ardabil.

Trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Iran amounted to $137.65 million in January-September 2016, $34.91 million of which accounted for the export of Azerbaijani goods to Iran, according to the State Customs Committee of Azerbaijan.

Khodabaksh further spoke about existing opportunities for cooperation in tourism sector and said that Sareyn City in Ardabil Province annually hosts about five million holidaymakers. Therefore investing in the construction of five-star hotels in this city would be offer promising prospects for investors.

The provincial officials in the meantime seek to create a “special economic and free trade zone” along Iran and Azerbaijan borders in Ardabil’s Parsabad city.

Creating the special economic and free trade zone would boost trade between the two sides due to eased taxes.

Given the high level meetings that the provincial delegation held in Azerbaijan following its visit to Russia, it appears that mutual and strong will exists for expansion of trade ties between Tehran and Baku on both levels, national and provincial.

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