Iran's economy is characterised by strong and centralised Government policies that are delivered by a fairly inefficient state sector, but Iran also has significant agricultural, industrial and service sectors. Iran ranked 118 out of 189 in the World Bank's 2015 Ease of Doing Business report.

Iran, Isfahan

Doing business with Iran

  • To find out more about the changes to doing businsess with Iran, visit MFAT’s website. You can also contact NZTE on 0800 555 888 or via mail.  

The bilateral relationship has traditionally been based primarily on the commodities trade between the two countries. Two way trade was worth $110,300,000 in the year to September 2015, with New Zealand exporting $91,600,000 worth of goods and services to Iran. Dairy and meat products are New Zealand's main exports to Iran; in the past New Zealand has exported up to 60% of its lamb to Iran. Other major exports include fish and wool. Imports in the year to September 2015 were $18,700,000 and consisted mainly of edible fruits and nuts, and textile floor coverings. 

In July 2015 the United Nations Security Council agreed to a historic nuclear deal with Iran. On 16 January 2016 (known as “Implementation Day”), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran has taken a series of initial nuclear-related measures called for by the agreement.

New Zealand updated its regulations for doing business with Iran in February 2016, in line with United Nations Security Council changes to sanctions. These regulations mean New Zealand companies don’t have to register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade before doing business with Iran.

For more information about doing business with Iran, see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's website.

Facts about Iran's economy

  • There is great reliance on oil, which provides much of government revenue. Iran holds almost 10 percent of world oil reserves and is OPEC's second largest producer.
  • After averaging around five to six percent growth through 2007 to 2011, Iran's economy contracted for the first time in two decades during both 2012 and 2013, and grew only slightly in 2014. Official inflation was estimated by the Central Bank to be 15.5 percent in 2014.
  • Under-employment among Iran's educated youth causes many to seek jobs overseas, resulting in a significant 'brain drain'. It is estimated that close to 5 million Iranian born citizens may now be expatriates living in North America, Europe, Turkey, Australia and the broader Middle East.
  • Iran has a population of 81 million, the majority of which are aged between 15 and 54 years.

Opportunities for New Zealand businesses

Some background points:

  • Iranians are proud of their long and deep cultural heritage. They have been successful traders for thousands of years. Acknowledging this heritage helps to get a business relationship off to a good start.
  • Shia Islam is the official religion (most being Shia) and Persian is the official language. However, many business people will have a good command of English.
  • A handshake with everyone at the start and the end of meetings is the accepted practice. Note that handshakes would be considered inappropriate for women meeting men.
  • Men are expected to dress smartly and conservatively, although a tie is not always necessary.
  • Women should dress conservatively; clothing should cover arms, legs and hair.
  • Use of first names is usually not practised until some familiarity has been achieved. It usual to address a person by their title and surname e.g. Mr Khadem, Professor Akbari.
  • Punctuality is appreciated. If running late, a call in advance will be well-received.
  • Any company wishing to do business with Iran should, in addition to registering this interest with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, discuss their business plan with NZTE to ascertain the limits of New Zealand Government support to trading with Iran.


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