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Economic Failure of Imports from China: Basij Commander Admits as Well


Report by Rooz Online

As criticism mounts in Iran over the country's policy of importing non-essential goods from China, and the government's response has been the announcement that it has curtailed such imports by 40 percent, without giving any detailed statistics, the commander of the para-military Basij force said during a Basij seminar that unemployment remained the most serious problem of the government, adding, "We must not allow our markets to be filled with foreign goods, particularly products from Chinese companies that have hurt our economy."

Mohammad-Reza Naghdi
(file photo)

According to Fars news agency, which is closely affiliated with the security-military circles in Iran, Mohammad-Reza Naghdi, the head of the Basij force that operates under the command of the Revolutionary Guards, IRGC, spoke at the seminar tracing the role of the bazaar and the trades in Iran prior to and after the 1979 revolution. "Prior to the revolution, the bazaar of Qom was shut for 13 months while the one in Tehran was closed for 5. But despite this, merchants continued their financial assistance to the protestors, which is an Islamic feature. Our bazaar is very precious and revolutionary and was a major financial supporter of the imposed war [with Iraq] and has always resisted the plots of the enemies in the economic regime," he said.

These remarks by a senior official of the Islamic republic come at a time when the merchants of Tehran and other major cities have been hurt over the past two years because of the unregulated import of Chinese goods into the country, and some contend that their situation is worse than ever. They have repeatedly formally complained about the unregulated imports from China, which range from tomb stones to parts for heavy industries.

Without referring to some of the products that have imported which have created headlines and protests because they contradicted Islamic values, the commander of the Basij force called for Islamic teachings among the members of the bazaar, and said, "I hope that today's bazaar generation, like its predecessors, will give Islamic teachings priority over trade, as the major mission of Basij today in the bazaar is to promote Islamic culture and ideology."

In another part of his talk, Naghdi objected to the printed T shirts that were imported and said that the messages on them were un-Islamic. He said the bazaar should be closed during the congregational Friday prayers. Naghdi said that financial jihad was the second mission of Basij for the bazaar, aimed at providing financial help to the needy.

China is Iran's largest trading partner and textiles constitute a large part of the goods that are imported. Merchants have complained that the Iranian textile industry has suffered because of this, as have other minor industries such as toys, resulting in bankruptcy of some textile plants, adding to the already huge unemployment force.

"Our big problem today is unemployment and this must be addressed through production," he elaborated on his economic views. What was not clear in Naghdi's talk was whether he was criticizing the government's import policies or Basij's role in this field.

Earlier, the head of the joint Iran-China Chamber of Commerce Assadollah Asqar Owladi had announced the creation of Iran's first Trade Center in China and had said that trade with China contributed to Iran's economic stability, and that its expansion of the $28 billion trade between the two countries in 2009 would take place according to plans and reach $50 billion. Owladi did not mention how much of this would constitute Iranian exports to China.

Officially, China ranks 10th in Iran's imports, totaling about $6 billion. But in addition to the official imports, there is a large black market for Chinese goods that are brought in directly or indirectly, and they have a major impact on the employment situation in the country. Imports from China picked up rapidly after Western countries imposed trade sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. Currently, Iran remains China's largest market in the Middle East.

Observers and analysts believe that this opening up of the Iranian market to Chinese goods is the policy of Ahmadinejad's administration as a way to secure China's support for Iran's nuclear program which is under suspicion from the West.

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