JAKARTA: Indonesia and Iran signed a trade agreement on Tuesday in Jakarta, where President Joko Widodo hosted his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi. Tehran is aiming to boost its international trade ties to try and offset the economic impact of heavy Western and international sanctions.

Raisi’s two-day visit to Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, comes in the shadow of fresh European Union sanctions this week on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. “We believe that sanctions and threats cannot stop us in any way,” the Iranian president said Tuesday after a signing ceremony at the Bogor Palace for a total of 10 agreements, including trade.

“Cooperation and relations with neighboring countries, Muslim countries, and countries that are aligned with us in various fields is our priority.” Under the pact, Iran will provide easier access for Indonesian exports including vegetable oil, cocoa, coffee and tobacco, according to the Indonesian trade ministry. In return, Jakarta would lower tariffs on Iranian exports to Indonesia, including oil and its derivative products, minerals, chemicals and iron.

“I hope (the agreement) will expand the trade between Indonesia and Iran,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo said at the signing ceremony. Raisi said the goal was to raise the value of two-way trade between Indonesia and Iran to $20 billion. In 2022, the total trade value between the two was just over $250 million. Raisi’s trip—his first official visit to Indonesia—comes in the shadow of fresh Western penalties on Tehran. 

On Monday, the European Union froze the assets of the investment arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard over the brutal crackdown on the protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini. It was the eighth round of EU sanctions over the repression of those demonstrations. —AFP