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Hewitt confident of improving economic ties between UK, Iran

London, Nov 17, IRNA -- British Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt is optimistic that economic relations between London and Tehran will be boosted following this week's EU agreement on Iran's nuclear program.

"I am confident that the trading and investment links between our two countries will go from strength to strength and will bear fruit for both to our mutual and lasting advantage," Hewitt told delegates at a conference on Fuelling Economic Growth in Iran.

In a keynote speech on 'Strengthening the Iran-UK Trading Relationship' at the conference in London Wednesday, she said that bilateral trading relations had already developed and matured in the past five years.

"Interest in Iran from UK businesses goes from strength to strength. My department took nearly 100 firms to Iran last year, ready and willing to do business," the Trade Secretary said.

She also insisted that trade was "not all one-way traffic" and referred to Iranian exports to the UK rising in the first eight months of 2004 by 46 per cent compared with the same period last year.

But Hewitt declined to mention that the value was still worth less than Pnds 30 million (Dlrs 54 m) compared with more than Pnds 250 m in British goods exported to Iran in the first eight months of this year.

To justify her claim that Britain was becoming an increasingly important market, she related to Iran's investment at Saveh Rolling Mills in Newport, Wales.

The conference, supported by the British government's UK Trade and Investment Department, was attended by Iran's Minister of ndustries and Mines, Es'haq Jahangiri, generating great interest with the attendance of some 300 British and Iranian businessmen.

The British Trade Secretary said that both she and the rest of her government "strongly welcome" the agreement with the European Union on Iran's nuclear program. She expressed hope it "will establish a basis on which we can extend cooperation in future."

"Like our European Union partners, we believe that closer commercial ties with Iran must be accompanied by progress in other areas," she said.

Hewitt specified that the UK also wanted Iran to "play a more positive role" in the fight on terrorism, to "do more to support the Iraqi Interim Government" and to have the right and freedoms of Iran's citizen's "better protected."

Returning to the theme of the conference, she told delegates that she "firmly believed that the need for a diverse economy in Iran has never been more pressing."

"Diversification will bring new skills, new jobs and new prosperity to future generations of Iranians," the minister said, arguing that UK investment could help to foster such diversity.

In order to seize the great economic opportunities between the two counties, she said "Iran needs to make itself an attractive location for investment in the face of global competition."

This, Hewitt suggested, meant creating a legal framework to protect foreign investment and reassure investors, to ensure regulatory systems allow the movement of people and capital and resolve such critical issues as taxation, copyright and patents.

"An open economy is a means to many ends - providing strength through technology transfer, diversification and increased employment - increasing the capacity for wealth generation, bring educational and social benefits," she said.

Other intangible benefits from the rewards of better trading relations, Hewitt said, were a "deeper and stronger links between our two people and their cultures."

... Payvand News - 11/17/04 ... --

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