On 31 January, EU Foreign Ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian (France), Heiko Maas (Germany) and Jeremy Hunt (United Kingdom) announced the registration of the Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges (“INSTEX SAS”), a Special Purpose Vehicle designed to facilitate legitimate trade between European economic operators and Iran (press release available here). This comes after the joint announcement, in November 2018, affirming the EU’s commitment to maintaining financial channels with Iran after the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, and subsequent reports of delays encountered in setting up this SPV.

INSTEX has been registered in France, with Germany, France and the UK as initial shareholders. It will reportedly be headed by German banker Per Fischer, and its supervisory board will consist of 3 diplomats: Migher Berger of Germany, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne of France and Simon McDonald of the UK. Although the registration of INSTEX is a notable development, the Foreign Ministers noted in their announcement that it is not yet operational and that there are more technical and legal aspects to address, including the creation of the necessary counterpart structures in Iran. Details on an exact timeline have not yet been announced.

INSTEX will initially support trade only with European countries, and focus on the sectors most essential to the Iranian population such as pharmaceutical, medical devices and agri-food goods. However, it aims in the long term to be open to economic operators from other countries who wish to trade with Iran.