US ‘not looking to grant further Iran oil waivers’

Brian Hook declined to say what the Trump administration would do when import waivers on Iran oil for certain countries expired in May. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 13 January 2019
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US ‘not looking to grant further Iran oil waivers’

ABU DHABI: The US is not looking to grant more waivers for Iranian oil imports after the reimposition of US sanctions, the US special representative for Iran said on Saturday, underlining Washington’s push to choke off Tehran’s income.

“We are not looking to grant any waivers or exemptions to the import of Iranian crude,” Brian Hook told a industry conference in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi.

Washington granted waivers to eight major buyers of Iranian oil — including China, India, Japan and South Korea — after restoring energy sanctions in November.

Hook declined to say what the administration in Washington would do when those waivers end in May.

“Iran is now increasingly feeling the economic isolation that our sanctions are imposing ... We do want to deny the regime revenues,” Hook said.

“Eighty percent of Iran’s revenues come from oil exports and this is (the) number one state sponsor of terrorism ... We want to deny this regime the money it needs,” he added.

Tensions between Iran and the US have increased since May, when US President Donald Trump 
abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers, saying the accord was flawed in Tehran’s favor, and reintroduced sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the pact.

“We want a new and better deal (with Iran) but in that process we are denying the Iranian regime billions and billions of dollars and they are facing a liquidity crisis,” Hook said.

The Islamic Republic, he added, would not return to the negotiating table without pressure.

Tehran has refused to renegotiate its nuclear accord and says its ballistic missile program — another source of concern for Washington and its regional allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia — is solely defensive and untouchable.

Hook said Washington was pleased with China cutting its oil imports from Iran, and that he expected much deeper reductions in Iranian oil exports. “We are just getting started,” he said.

Iran’s crude exports will be severely curtailed for a third month in January as it struggles to find new buyers amid the sanctions, according to tanker data and industry sources.

Separately, Omani Oil Minister Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Rumhi told the conference that Washington had not asked the Gulf Arab state to stop a gas pipeline project with Iran and that talks were continuing.

He said some partners for the project had pulled out because of the risk of punishment by Washington for dealing with Iran but that some other Asian firms were willing to take part.


EU sets out plans for ‘limited’ US trade deal

Updated 35 min 12 sec ago
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EU sets out plans for ‘limited’ US trade deal

  • Negotiating a trade deal was included in a transatlantic truce secured last year
  • EU governments were shell-shocked last year when Trump imposed tariffs on metals imports as part of his ‘America First’ vision

BUSSELS: The EU on Friday published its negotiating plans for a free trade deal with the US, part of an effort to avert a trade war with US President Donald Trump.
Negotiating a trade deal was included in a transatlantic truce secured last year after the US slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the EU, alarming the world.
The effort is also part of an effort to stop Trump from slapping tariffs on European car imports, a danger that has especially unnerved export powerhouse Germany.
“It is not a traditional (trade deal)... it is a limited but important proposal engaged on industrial goods tariffs only,” EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told reporters.
The process however has got off to a rocky start, with the US side last week including agricultural products in their plans, which is an absolute no-go for the Europeans.
“In this mandate, we are not proposing any reduction of tariffs on agriculture. That area was left outside,” Malmstrom insisted.
The 17-page mandate submitted by the US also included other demands and charges that are unacceptable for the EU, including that Europe stop manipulating foreign exchange rates.
Given the split, the EU is entering the negotiations with trepidation, especially since the threat of auto duties is still very much alive in Washington.
The commission handles trade negotiations for the EU’s 28 member states and the plans must now be approved by the national governments before negotiations actually start with Washington.
Brussels and member states are wary after the failure of the so-called TTIP talks, a far more ambitious transatlantic trade plan which stalled amid fears a deal with Washington would undermine EU food and health standards.
Opposition by activists has already resurfaced with Friends of the Earth Europe warning that “there can be no trade-offs on food standards” in the deal.
EU governments were shell-shocked last year when Trump imposed tariffs on metals imports as part of his “America First” protectionist vision.
Brussels responded by slapping counter-tariffs on more than $3 billion in US exports like bourbon, blue jeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
But Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in July called a truce, agreeing that as both sides pursued a trade deal, neither would impose additional tariffs.