It took ten years for 15 Asia-Pacific countries to agree on a trade agreement. Last week, China and 14 other countries signed a deal to form the world’s largest free-trade zone at the end of the 37th ASEAN Summit; Countries that make up one-third of the world economy. In addition to powerful countries such as China, Japan, and Australia, other powerful economic countries such as South Korea and New Zealand are also members.
The treaty is one of the most significant free trade agreements in the world’s history, affecting the lives of 2.2 billion people on Earth and accounting for 30 percent of its economic output.
Most of these countries are Iran’s allies and friends. However, why did they not allow Tehran to become a member of such an agreement?
In such circumstances, regional and global agreements are becoming extremely important. Practically, no country can even think about its existence without being a member of such contracts.
However, when it comes to the Iranian government, no country desires to be even close and cooperate with the ayatollahs because of their malign activities, from their controversial nuclear case to involvement in terror activities and proxy conflicts.
“ECO”, an Example of Iran’s Apparent Failure
One of the few regional organizations formed around Iran was the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). It included Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Nonetheless, Iran’s membership prevented the agreement from achieving the minimum acceptable expectations.
“According to some experts, the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) has not yet achieved its goal of expanding cooperation between member countries,” wrote Asr-e-Eghtesad website on November 17, 2018.
“In recent years, industrial and trade relations in this organization are not at the desired level. Experts believe that given the weak economic power of member countries and also the vulnerable credit position of Iran, to achieve its vision should consider membership in other treaties such as the Shanghai Agreement,” the website added.
Of course, a wish has not been fulfilled for Iran for the reasons stated, and its adverse economic effects are evident.
“Due to Iran’s non-membership in reputable and powerful organizations such as Shanghai, Iran’s economy has benefited less from the benefits of globalization and international relations. This issue has made many foreign investors reluctant to enter the Iranian market,” Asr-e-Eghtesad added.
“Financial Connection with the World” or “Iran’s Economic Isolation”?
When all Iranian officials believe in joining the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei preferred the interests of money laundering and circumventing sanctions. Furthermore, he favored the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC)’s corporate cover companies to foreign trade, isolating Iran globally, and labeling the entire country with terror financing, fraud, corruption, and organized crime.
So far that even his officials expected an answer from him:
“Regardless of any political debate, we must decide between one of two paths:
- Joining the whole world and entering the FATF and continuing economic life as a member of the international community or
- Rejection of FATF and being left alone in the world financial system, disconnection of all banks in the world with Iran, and economic isolation.
“Interestingly, the main reason for the opposition is that if Iran joins the FATF, we can no longer support Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas. In fact, they say to suspend the entire Iranian financial system and close the doors of all the world’s banks to ourselves and put the Iranian people in a thousand troubles so that we can continue our foreign aid,” the semi-official ISNA news agency wrote on October 1, 2018.
Iran’s Economy Does not Tolerate Financial Isolation and Blacklists
At least Iran’s heads decided not to join the FATF, but officials who were well aware of the consequences warned the leaders:
“Failure to cooperate with the FATF will result in the isolation of the country in question. In the case of Iran, these consequences will be twofold. Because Iran’s economy is not in a normal situation. Unprecedented economic instability and the return of sanctions against Iran, along with financial isolation due to non-cooperation with the Financial Action Task Force, will bring a new shock to the country that the economic strength will not be tolerated,” wrote Otagh-e-Iran website on March 11, 2020.
Supporting proxy groups and sending war cargos to them is something that the ayatollahs’ government cannot refrain from because they see these issues as the principal elements for their survival. However, parallel to this, government-linked experts cannot hide the destruction of such policies and the losses that the Iranian people are experiencing.
“The question for Iranian civilization is: Iran, without being part of the global economic exchange network, or being part of international agreements to be included in the global value chain, without any pipeline, land, air or sea corridor passing through Iran, without being on the world’s major trade routes, without banking connections, without having any critical airports or ports in the global economic relations, without entering into a growing number of regional trade development treaties, what will be the consequences?
“Is that enough to just be on the world map? Will we not be removed from the contemporary world by continuing this situation? In a world where even our oil is no longer needed, is it enough to be on the map? Is it satisfying to be on the map and not in the relations of the contemporary world?” wrote Eghtesad News website on November 20, 2020.
“We have lost decades, but if we move later, we will be removed from the contemporary world and lost somewhere in history. Now that we are half-lost, you have identified sixty million people in need of livelihood assistance, when we are lost,” the website added.