US sanctions Chinese and Russian firms over Iran trade

US sanctions Chinese and Russian firms over Iran trade
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the campaign of pressure on the Iranian regime when he met the Kuwaiti foreign minister earlier this week. (AFP)
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Updated 29 November 2020

US sanctions Chinese and Russian firms over Iran trade

US sanctions Chinese and Russian firms over Iran trade
  • Four companies accused of ‘transferring sensitive technology and items’ to missile program

LONDON: The US has slapped economic sanctions on four Chinese and Russian companies that Washington claims helped to support Iran’s missile program.

The four were accused of “transferring sensitive technology and items to Iran’s missile program” and will be subject to restrictions on US government aid and their exports for two years, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

The sanctions, imposed on Wednesday, were against two Chinese-based companies, Chengdu Best New Materials and Zibo Elim Trade, as well as Russia’s Nilco Group and joint stock company Elecon.

“These measures are part of our response to Iran’s malign activities,” said Pompeo. “These determinations underscore the continuing need for all countries to remain vigilant to efforts by Iran to advance its missile program. We will continue to work to impede Iran’s missile development efforts and use our sanctions authorities to spotlight the foreign suppliers, such as these entities in the PRC and Russia, that provide missile-related materials and technology to Iran.”

The Trump administration has ramped up sanctions on Tehran after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

Earlier this week, Pompeo met Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, when the campaign of pressure on the Iranian regime was also discussed.

“I want to thank Kuwait for its support of the maximum pressure campaign. Together, we are denying Tehran money, resources, wealth, weapons with which they would be able to commit terror acts all across the region,” he said.

It is not yet clear how the incoming administration of Joe Biden will deal with Tehran and whether it wants to revive the nuclear deal which would be key reviving the country’s battered economy. The Iranian rial has lost about half of its value this year against the dollar, fueling inflation and deepening the damage to the economy.

Iran’s economy would grow as much as 4.4 percent next year if sanctions were lifted, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said last week. 

The economy is expected to contract by about 6.1 percent in 2020 according to IIF estimates.


Malaysia takes legal action against EU over palm biofuel curbs

Malaysia takes legal action against EU over palm biofuel curbs
Updated 17 January 2021

Malaysia takes legal action against EU over palm biofuel curbs

Malaysia takes legal action against EU over palm biofuel curbs
  • Palm oil constitutes 30 percent of the global oils and fats production

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is taking legal action at the global trade watchdog against the EU and member states France and Lithuania for restricting palm oil-based biofuels, the government said.

The world’s second largest palm oil producer, which has called a EU renewable-energy directive “discriminatory action,” is seeking consultations under the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Mechanism, the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry said in a statement.

Minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali said the EU proceeded with implementing the directive without considering Malaysia’s commitment and views, even after Malaysia gave feedback and sent economic and technical missions to Europe.

The EU directive “will mean the use of palm oil as biofuel in the EU cannot be taken into account in the calculation of renewable energy targets and in turn create undue trade restrictions to the country’s palm oil industry,” he said in the statement.

The ministry filed the WTO request with cooperation from the Attorney General’s Chambers and the International Trade and Industry Ministry, taking action it had warned of in July against EU Renewable Energy Directive II.

Malaysia will act as a third party in a separate WTO case lodged by neighboring Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, as a sign of solidarity and support, the ministry statement said.

Indonesia and Malaysia, together account for 85 percent of the global output of palm oil. Palm oil constitutes 30 percent of the global oils and fats production, and plays a significant role in fulfilling the demand in the global oils and fats market.

It is the world’s most produced and traded edible oil, and its versatility can be seen through its use in a wide range of food and nonfood products, which led to the remarkable palm oil consumption growth.

The US imported approximately $410 million of crude palm oil from Malaysia in 2020, CNN reported.