U.S. lifts ban on foreign units of American companies operating in Iran

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The United States will allow foreign subsidiaries of American companies to trade with Iran as part of sanctions relief granted under an international nuclear deal, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Saturday.

U.S. authorities have also lifted restrictions on buying of Iranian oil by non-U.S. entities, as well as the sale of goods and services to Iran’s energy sector, the Treasury said.

The lifting of the ban on non-American trade with Iran’s oil sector represents a significant opening on an embargo that had severed the West’s ties to one of world’s largest oil reserves. Sanctions had made Iranian exports to European Union countries – the vast majority energy-related – fall by 86 percent between 2012 and 2013, according to the European Commission.

While U.S. firms will still be restricted from buying Iranian oil, or providing equipment to the industry, Europe will regain access to the market.

Foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies were allowed to operate in Iran until 2012, when Congress expanded sanctions and imposed penalties on American firms if their foreign units traded with Iran.

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