Tehran officials are in Beijing this week to seek more oil sales, in a move that could reduce Iran’s vulnerability to Western sanctions and pressure the U.S. to sign off on a deal to lift restrictions on Iranian oil exports.
Representatives of the state-run National Iranian Oil Company are meeting with Chinese oil importer Sinopec and state-run oil trader Zhuhai ZhenRong for talks, officials told Reuters this week.
This came after Iran and the “P5+1” countries—the five permanent United Nations Security Council members plus Germany—last week agreed to a framework for a deal that would see international sanctions on Tehran lifted in exchange for cuts to is nuclear program.
“With negotiations going on, this (talks between Beijing and Tehran) will be presented as an investigatory discussion—but one that puts pressure on (U.S. President Barack) Obama to make a deal,” Peter Morici, an economist and professor at the University of Maryland in the U.S. told CNBC.
The sanctions were first imposed on Iran at the end of 2011, due to fears that its uranium enrichment program was aimed at building a nuclear weapon. The measures targeted Iran’s energy sector—a highly significant part of its economy—limiting exports, preventing large-scale investment and hampering its ability to tap investment.
As a result, Iran suffered a 1 million barrel per day drop in oil exports in 2012 compared with the previous year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).