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Any interruption of imports would significantly affect the daily lives of Iranians, for whom foreign goods have become essential. Trade disruption would not, however, cause foreign consumers to miss many of Iran’s nonoil exports. Industrial goods exports from Iran have been limited to only a few items that are exchanged primarily through barter agreements. Historically, agricultural products and carpets have made up a major portion of nonoil exports in international markets at competitive prices (see table 11, Appendix). However, since the 1990s, the Iranian government and the private sector have marketed Iranian nonoil exports aggressively, significantly increasing the sale of those goods. Between 1998 and 2004, nonoil exports averaged about US$5.1 billion per year, with industrial goods holding a 52 percent share. In FY 2005 the value of nonoil exports totaled US$10.7 billion. Of that amount, 42 percent was contributed by the sale of industrial exports, including chemical, petrochemical, and metal products. The export share of agriculture was 18.4 percent, tourism 16.0 percent, and mining and metals 11.8 percent).

Despite an increase in nonoil exports, foreign market penetration has proven difficult for Iran’s goods and services. In the early 2000s, nonoil exports averaged only 20 percent of total exports. In this period, the export of durable manufacturing goods remained especially problematic. For example, in FY 2005 the export of home appliances was less than 1 percent of domestic production. In the early 2000s, obstacles to increased nonpetroleum exports included income and price inelasticity of exportable industrial goods and the lack of infrastructure (such as permanent trade offices overseas and special financial facilities) on which to base expanded activities. Because of these factors, economic growth among Iran’s trading partners did not necessarily increase their demand for Iranian goods, and domestic currency depreciation has not increased export revenues. Beginning in 2006, Iran’s Khodro automotive company pursued an aggressive export strategy for its new passenger car model, the Samand.

Although Iran has relied on industrial countries for imports, export sales have been concentrated in a different group of countries and have shifted with time. Prior to 1979, the EU’s share of Iran’s nonoil exports was 30 percent, that of China and the Soviet Union (in the form of barter trade) was 29 percent, and that of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC—see Glossary) countries was 9.7 percent. During 1980–88, the EU’s average share increased to 41 percent, while political instability in Eastern Europe reduced barter trade with Iran by the countries of that region to 9 percent. In this period, Germany and Italy remained major importers of the country’s nonoil exports. Beginning in 1995, the EU’s share declined to 15 percent, while the share of OPEC nations increased to 18 percent. Between 2002 and 2005, Japan was Iran’s largest customer, importing an average of 19 percent of the country’s total nonoil exports; the next-largest customers were China (10 percent) and Italy (6.4 percent) (see table 10, Appendix).

Data as of 2008

Last Updated: January 2008

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Iran was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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