Many Croatian companies see an opportunity on the Iranian market now that UN sanctions have been lifted and hope to strike lucrative deals there, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) said in a statement on an Iranian-Croatian economic forum that took place in Tehran on Wednesday.

The forum was held as part of President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic's visit to Iran on May 16-19 and involved about 70 Croatian and 150 Iranian business people.

"Iran has opened its doors wide to Croatian companies and it's up to us to take advantage of that. I am glad that the Gredelj rolling stock company is close to signing a major business agreement, and that's just the beginning. After the sanctions, this market is thirsty for all sorts of goods and services, and what is particularly important is that it is also offering room for cooperation to small businesses," HGK chairman Luka Burilovic said while opening the forum.

Speaking of major infrastructure problems being planned in Iran, Burilovic said it was not unrealistic for Croatia to participate in Iran's total imports with 1%, in which case he claimed the Croatian economy would be USD 567 million richer.

Iran is well positioned in the region and can be a good strategic partner for the marketing of Croatian products in Iran and other countries in the region, said the chairman of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mine and Agriculture, Mohsen Jalalpour.

He said he would visit Croatia soon and expressed hope that specific agreements would be concluded then. "However, the bond between Croatia and Iran is deeper and we want to build our relationship not just in the economic field but also in education, tourism and culture," he said.

The HGK says that reactions from business people are very positive.

Vitomir Klasic of the plastics manufacturer Ivanicplast said he was confident they would clinch a deal. "We have contacts. We have sent our samples and are hoping for a deal worth between 200,000 and 300,000 euros, which is a lot of money for small businesses like us," he said. 

Roko Vuletic, the CEO of the Sibenik-based NCP shipbuilding group, said that Iran first and foremost expected partners ready to invest in joint projects, which is where he sees a chance for his company. "It is hard to expected classic sales agreements. With sanctions lifted, large multinationals are now appearing as direct competition. That's why it is important that Croatia should find modalities for financing major export projects through the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development or in some other way," he said.

The HGK says that representatives of Croatian companies have visited relevant Iranian ministries.

It quoted the acting director of the Arithera Special Hospital, Ilijana Palcec, as saying that cooperation had been agreed with the Iranian Ministry of Health, while Mirko Poljak of Koncar Electrical Industries said that the Iranians had shown an interest in the construction of tram infrastructure and the sale of low-floor trams.

Niko Dalic, a board member of the INA oil company, said that INA had been present on the Iranian market for a long time, but that the manner in which Iran made deals with oil companies had changed. "I hope we get a better deal than the previous one," he said.

Trade between Croatia and Iran totalled a mere USD 4.4 million in 2015. Iran is one of the few countries with which Croatia has a trade surplus. Croatia exports to Iran seven times more than it imports from it.

The HGK stressed that the opportunities offered by this country of about 80 million people were insufficiently exploited.

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