France, Britain and Germany, defying threats from Washington, are this week executing their plans to set up a special-payments company to secure some trade with Iran and blunt the impact of U.S. sanctions.
In the short term, the new company is expected to struggle to achieve even its initial goal of enabling Tehran to import vital food and drugs at affordable prices. After months of delays, people familiar with the plan said Tuesday the three European governments had started the process of registering the company to run a payments channel that would allow goods to be bartered between European and Iranian companies without the need for direct financial transactions. The company should be established by Thursday or Friday, the people said.
The company is being registered in France and will be headed by a German official with the French, British and German governments as shareholders — an arrangement intended to ward off U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s threat of sanctioning the entity by putting it under the aegis of Washington’s traditional European allies.
The European Union promised to create what is known as the special-purpose vehicle as part of efforts to persuade Iran to remain in the 2015 nuclear deal following President Donald Trump’s decision in May to pull the U.S. out of the accord and reimpose sanctions. When many smaller member countries expressed reluctance to host the company or participate directly as shareholders because of U.S. sanctions threats, the bloc’s three biggest powers proceeded with the project.
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