What changes are you expecting to see in the sector this year?
First of all, Iran has not changed; it is the same ministry, the same policy, and the same country. This change is only because of political matters; the external image of Iran depicted us as looking for nuclear weapons and so on. However, finally, after long-term negotiations, people understood the facts. We are here to cooperate with countries that have displayed an eagerness to cooperate. We seek long-term, strategic cooperation. If someone wants to sell their goods and leave, we are not here for this. We have plenty of production inside the country. Even in medicine, we produce 97% of total consumption. In the car industry and many other industries, most of the goods are produced in Iran for domestic use and some for export. We seek long-term cooperation, including joint investment and engineering cooperation, R&D, HR, technical, commercial, export, top management, and so on. It will be a joint cooperation. We have something to give and they will have something to give.
How is the ministry trying to promote economic ties with the EU?
We believe each of these countries have their specialties. They have good or competitive conditions in certain areas. For example, Italy and Germany are industrial countries, and we believe Germany has five or six areas for cooperation. We have information and history that shows there are certain countries with certain areas that are more cooperative. We look forward to determining the companies on their side that are qualified and then matching them with our companies. The government will not do business; we have to make general policies so they can work together. If we want to expand business, banking relations are a priority. This is why companies bring their bankers here to talk with our banks about cooperating again. For investment, Iran needs export credit agencies to support investors. We all have to find ways to restart cooperation. We have to exchange information. It will take some time to build this.
Iran recently announced plans to cooperate with China to contract an industrial park for petrochemicals, aluminum, and steel. Will this project help trade relations with other Asian countries?
At times Europeans think Iran's relationship with Asian countries will hurt its relationship with European countries. However, Iran is large enough to have cooperation with all of these companies. We are not going to cut ties with big industrial, growing countries like China or Russia. They have some advantages that we need to utilize. For example, in infrastructure, there is greater capacity in China. They conduct large projects, activities, and their processes are competitive, so why not cooperate? We are just continuing our previous cooperation as well as starting new cooperation. This government is looking for a good, long-lasting relationship with all the countries and it will not happen unless we can make it a win-win for all sides.
What is your outlook for the mining sector?
Last year we invested about USD3 billion in steel complexes. There were sanctions in place and we did not have many financing options, but we still did it in one year. By 2025, we look to reach a minimum of 50 million tons of steel. Some of the projects are already under construction. Some will start operations in the coming years. We have domestic growth and this is a situation where we can supply steel to our neighboring countries. Of this 50 million tons, we believe a minimum of 10 million tons will be exported. This year we will produce a minimum 18 million tons of steel, but there are many different stages.