France, Germany urge Europe to act on US Iran sanctions

France, Germany urge Europe to act on US Iran sanctions

France and Germany urge European nations to push back against US sanctions targeting their companies doing business with Iran after President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear agreement.

France’s Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire on Friday criticized what he described as the extraterritoriality of Washington’s punitive measures against one of EU’s key trade partners.

“We feel that the extraterritoriality of their sanction measures is unacceptable,” Le Maire told Le Parisien newspaper, vowing that European countries would “do everything to protect the interests of their companies”.

“The Europeans should not have to pay for the withdrawal of an agreement by the United States, to which they had themselves contributed,” he added.

He also urged European nations to defend themselves against America’s anti-Iran sanctions.

Le Maire said the European Union had to defend its “economic sovereignty” when it comes to the right to trade with Iran.

The French economy minister said the EU would hold “collective discussions with the United States to obtain… different rules” covering European companies that do business with Iran.

“At the end of May I will meet with the British and German finance ministers and the three of us will look at what we can do,” he said.

‘Blocking regulations’

Le Maire pointed to the possibility of reinstating of EU “blocking regulations” dating back to 1996, which were used as a countermeasure against US sanctions that targeted third countries doing business with Cuba.

The system, which was never actually used, permitted European companies to ignore the US sanctions and said that any decisions by foreign courts based on the sanctions would not be upheld in Europe.

“We want to reinforce this regulation and incorporate the recent decisions taken by the United States,” Le Maire said.

“The second avenue is looking at Europe’s financial independence — what can we do to give Europe more financial tools allowing it to be independent from the United States?”

On Thursday, Le Drian insisted that Washington needed to negotiate with its European allies on any sanctions that might affect their companies.

Germany ready to help its companies

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Friday Berlin was ready help its firms continue doing business in Iran in the face of looming US sanctions.

Altmaier emphasized that the German government was determined to avoid the negative fallout for those active in Iran.

“We are ready to talk to all the companies concerned about what we can do to minimize the negative consequences,” he told Deutschlandfunk radio.

“That means, it is concretely about damage limitation” and included offering legal advice, he said.

He also said Berlin had no immediate reason to change its Hermes export guarantee scheme for Iran either.

Of European tensions with the United States over the Iran issue, Altmaier said: “It is rather like the trade conflict with regard to the announced tariffs for steel and aluminum… We must avoid entering into a spiral of escalation.”

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