Investing in the Iranian Crisis

Iran has a bigger place in the global economy than most people know.

The first thing that I don’t think many people appreciate is how big the country is. The population of Iran is 66 million. That makes it the 19th most populous country on the planet — more populous than France, the U.K., Italy and South Korea. Iran is in the top 10 in terms of contributing to population growth.

Economically, Iran is an important link in the New Silk Road, that growing trade relationship between Asia and the Middle East. Iran is a big market for Asian exports. Take a look the next chart, which shows the sharp growth in trade:


Iran has plenty of oil and gas, which it exports to pay for Asian imports of cars, clothes and other goods. Increasingly, Iran is turning to Asia for these goods, rather than Europe.

Iran is the third largest supplier of crude oil to China. It makes up 12% of China’s total annual oil consumption. As Ilan Berman notes in a recent issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review: “Iran has become an engine of Chinese economic growth, and an indispensable part of Beijing’s energy plans.”

No surprise that China will help Iran finance its $3.2 billion expansion of its mammoth South Pars natural gas field. I am sure the Chinese are watching what happens in Iran with great interest. It makes for a complicated political situation.