Norway mulls push-back on US Iran sanctions

Norway’s government is considering taking action to protect Norwegian companies doing business in Iran, as new US sanctions against the country start to bite.

Norway mulls push-back on US Iran sanctions
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg prepares to shake US President Donald Trump's hand. Photo: NTB Scanpix

Marianne Hagen, State Secretary at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the government was still deciding whether to follow the European Union (EU) and offer compensation to companies hit by US sanctions because of continued trading with Iran.

“Norway supports the nuclear agreement and the Norwegian authorities have followed the discussions in the EU about possible measures to protect European industry closely,” she told  state broadcaster NRK. “Whether national measures are to be taken is being assessed.”

The US on Tuesday reimposed the first set of the sanctions against Iran lifted as part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The imposition came automatically after the 90-day wind-down period following US President Donald Trump's announcement of the US's withdrawal from the deal in May. 

The return of sanctions has set the US on a collision course with the EU. EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini on Tuesday called on European firms to increase the amount of business they do with Iran shortly after Trump threatened in a tweet that “anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States”.

As well as offering compensation, the EU's ‘blocking statute’  expressly forbids European companies  from complying with US sanctions unless authorized to do so by the European Commission.  

Hagen's comments came as Norway’s leading business lobbying organisation, the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), called on the government to help companies navigate the complexities of US sanctions and the EU's blocking statute.

“We believe this creates further uncertainty and makes it difficult for Norwegian companies to trade and invest in Iran,” Tore Myhre, the head of NHO's  international division, told the NTB newswire.

“As the United States threatens to punish companies that trade in Iran by banning them from the US market, it is a serious blow to Norwegian and European companies.” 

Myhre noted that Iran, with its sizable oil industry, was a significant potential market for Norwegian companies in the oil sector and one which had only just started to be tapped following the lifting of sanctions less than three years ago.

“The country is in great need of the expertise of Norwegian companies, especially in the oil industry and oil services industry,” he said. “Also, as a recipient country for Norwegian seafood, there is great potential.”