TEHRAN – Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Monday struck an agreement on a bilateral investment pact.
The two foreign ministers said in a joint news statement that they have agreed to set up a council for Japan-Iran cooperation to discuss a variety of issues ranging from economic cooperation to the environment and medical care.
They also agreed to enhance cooperation on swiftly implementing Iran’s nuclear deal, reached in July with six world powers.
“We are looking at what we can do to capitalize on the nuclear deal,” Kishida said at a joint news conference with Zarif.
The nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States) was agreed to on July 14. It is due to be implemented by the end of the year.
In exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities — Iran denies it was ever seeking to build atomic weapons — all EU, U.S. and U.N. nuclear-related sanctions against Iran will be lifted.
So that Tehran can better cope with inspections carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the two ministers agreed that Japan will send a team of experts to Iran to advise on the safe use of nuclear power and on ways to take measures against earthquakes at nuclear power plants.
The investment pact is aimed at encouraging Japanese firms to tap into the commercial potential of the Iranian market, Japanese officials said. Tokyo and Tehran agreed to accelerate procedures to have the pact become effective at an early date.
With sanctions on Tehran expected to be lifted as early as this coming spring, the United States and European countries have been stepping up efforts to improve trade relations with Iran, and Tokyo wants to keep in step with such moves.
“We discussed what we can do to add a new page in the history of our countries by taking advantage of the deal on (Iran’s) nuclear program,” Kishida said after the meeting.
Zarif also expressed confidence in expanding bilateral cooperation, saying a very bright future lies ahead for relations between the two countries.
Negotiations on concluding an investment pact between Japan and Iran began in early September. Later that month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met on the sidelines of U.N. meetings in New York and agreed to work toward an early conclusion to the negotiations.
Japan hopes an investment pact will ensure Japanese companies do not lag behind those of the United States and European nations in entering oil-rich Iran, the officials said.
As foreign competition for market access in Iran, with a population of more than 78 million, is expected to intensify, Japan hopes to help Iran’s infrastructure development, which has been affected by the international sanctions.
Resource-poor Japan also seeks to secure stable supplies of crude oil and natural gas from Iran.
Iran, for its part, is keen to launch the joint committee to expand investment from Japanese companies and rebuild its economy, according to the sources.
Economic cooperation, particularly on energy issues, is likely to be a key topic when Kishida visits Qatar.
Senior executives from around 20 companies in such sectors as oil and auto-making are accompanying Kishida.