January 25, 2020
In its most recent report China’s General Administration of Customs said that trade with Iran significantly dropped in 2019; by about one-third.
At $13.434 billion last year, Iranian exports to China dropped by more than 36% in comparison with 2018 while Chinese exports to Iran in the same period amounted to $9.590b showing a drop of 31% .
China has remained Iran’s biggest trade partner even after the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions but Iran’s share in Chinese international trade is much less significant and makes up a meager 0.5% of the country’s total foreign trade.
According to the Chinese Customs statistics, the country’s foreign trade in 2019 amounted to $4.576 trillion, of which trade with the United States and the European Union stood respectively at 12% and 16%.
China has strong trade relations with Iran’s regional rivals such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Chinese-Saudi trade volume is three times higher than the trade with Iran while the UAE-Chinese trade volume is double the Chinese trade with the Islamic Republic.
Before U.S. sanctions came into effect in 2018 China was the biggest buyer of Iranian crude oil. Currently due to sanctions Iran can only export between 250-300,000 barrels of crude oil per day 250,000 barrels of which go to China.
However, the revenues from the oil sales are not transferred to Iran as they are reportedly used to pay Iran’s debt to China Petrochemical Corp (Sinopec) and China National Petroleum Corp (CNCP) for the development of Iran’s super-giant Azadegan and Yadavaran oil fields.
The Chinese companies developed the fields after Japanese and European companies pulled out of the projects due to fears of sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program. Both fields are in the oil-rich southwestern Khuzestan Province.