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GENEVA: May 18, 2018. The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and Maersk Line are to stop serving Iran following Donald Trump’s withdrawal of America from the UN Security Council agreement in 2015 to lift some trade sanctions against the country, in exchange for limits to its nuclear program.

MSC is responding to the threat of punitive US sanctions on any company trading with Iran that uses the US Dollar, does business with the US or has American shareholders or subsidiaries.

Maersk said it would honour customer agreements entered into before May 08, but then wind them down by a November 04 deadline set by the Trump administration. As with other shipping lines, both box carriers can continue to carry food imports to Iran before November.

MSC OscarWith the additional announcement that Maersk Tankers would cease trading with Iran, yesterday French oil giant Total said it would stop the development of an Iranian project to supply gas to the country’s domestic market as a result of the re-imposition of US sanctions by Trump.

The company said it would “unwind” all operations before November 04 unless it is granted a specific project waiver by the US with support from French and European authorities.

Total said the waiver would have to include protection from any secondary sanction against the loss of US financing for its worldwide operations (90 percent), the loss of US shareholders (30 percent of the company), or the inability to continue operating in the US where it has assets of over US$10 billion.

Speaking in Sofia, Bulgaria today European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announced the reintroduction this week of a 1996 EU Blocking Statute to combat what he described as the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions on the European Union.

“I have to be very clear once again, and I am repeating myself by saying it: we want an unlimited exemption from the proposed tariff measures [and if so] we are ready to engage in talks with our transatlantic partner.”

Juncker said that in such a climate, the EU wanted to expand energy cooperation with the US, particularly in the field of liquefied natural gas; focus on voluntary cooperation between regulators outside the framework of trade negotiations; work with the US on World Trade Organisation reform that includes lifting the current blockage of the WTO's Appellate Body nominations; and discuss how to improve reciprocal market access, notably for industrial products including cars.

“But let me repeat,” added Junker, “we will not negotiate with the Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads."

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