How will foreign investment into Iran evolve in the next five years?
Well, if we get through with these sanctions, I'm sure it will happen, but up to now, we think that our friends in neighboring countries are really willing to extend their cooperation for investment. In our sector—industry, mining, and trade—we are expecting to have $3 billion of foreign investment per year, starting from 2016. It will be a beginning for cooperation. Probably in the beginning it will go a little slowly, but gradually it will speed up, especially from our neighboring countries like the UAE. I know we have lots of friends who want to invest, but could not because of the sanctions. For instance, tourism has good potential in Iran, but we need hotels and other facilities. I know that our neighboring Arab countries always want to come and build hotels, so it's in many sectors, not just industry.
How would you assess your economic relationship with the UAE?
We hope it will improve. There are many Iranian companies there. They used to work with Iran. There are many international companies there that use to work with us. But, we are looking for a new type of cooperation for the long term. We had a relationship with the Emirates because we couldn't buy directly from certain countries. That will not continue, but Emirati companies are still welcome to come and invest. Here is an industrial country that respects the neighboring countries. We have lots of young engineers and educated people. More than 60% of our university graduates are women! It's hard to find jobs for all of them. Back during the revolution, we had less than 25% of our university students as females, but now it's 64%. They are all eager to study and become physicians, doctors, engineers, and so on. They are all there and I think this is a good capacity that can be utilized for more cooperation. I became Minister of Labour when I was 33 years old, just after the revolution. I was also Deputy Minister of Petroleum and Minister of Industry and Trade with a wide experience in different industries. I even retired for a while, but then got called back. In all this time, we have always tried to have the best relationship with our neighbors. A year and a half ago, I met with Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to talk about our relations during the sanctions, but they could not because their banks were afraid of upsetting the US. Today, I'm sure that this will improve again. We can produce and export gas to countries that have a lack of supply, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.