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Iran's king of cars sees need for economic speed

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Story highlights

  • Mohammad Reza Najafi is one of Iran's foremost businesspeople
  • He sits on the country's Chamber of Commerce and the board of directors of the Iranian Auto Parts Manufacturers Association
  • Najafi says he sees growth of around 6% for the Iranian economy if and when sanctions are removed

A little over 26 years ago, Mohammad Reza Najafi started manufacturing auto parts in Iran.

Today he's an industry leader, supplying roughly three million springs and one million break-pads every year to Iranian auto makers.

Najafi's success has also earned him seats on the country's Chamber of Commerce and the board of directors of the Iranian Auto Parts Manufacturers Association. It has also made him a leading voice in Iran's efforts to re-energize its struggling economy.

Like many of his country's business leaders, Najafi has watched the recent negotiations with world powers on Iran's nuclear program with great interest.

He spoke to CNN's Reza Sayah on this week's Marketplace Middle East, sharing his thoughts on how he sees the talks panning out and the impact they will have on the Iranian economy going forward.

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Reza Sayah (RS): What was your reaction when they couldn't reach a deal (on the nuclear issue)?

    Mohammad Reza Najafi (MRN): As a matter of fact it was a deal but naturally it takes time and we are happy that it is continuing.

    RS: Would you agree that Iran's economy is not going to improve without the sanctions being lifted?

    MRN: It's a very difficult question to answer because at the same time during the sanctions we tried to find our own way to improve ourselves and so on.

    But we are interested to collaborate with them (the international community) so it is an obstacle that should be removed.

    RS: Tell me about Iran's economy today, where does it stand?

    MRN: These three months of the year, the first quarter of the Iranian year, the international trade has increased from $18.5 billion to $24.5 billion.

    We hope after removing the sanctions then we'll have at least 6% growth in the economy of the country and at least 10% growth in the industrial (sector).

    RS: Iran is still dependent on oil exports. That's been almost halved because of the sanctions. Then we have the banking sanctions. How can Iran's economy thrive if they're cut off from the banking system?

    MRN: The banking system is one of the main points that we hope will be removed very soon. We have found our own way but the best way is to go through the normal way where the cost is much lower and it is more normal.

    RS: Do you sense over this past year when relations have thawed with the west that investors and businessmen and women want to come to Iran to invest?

    MRN: Exactly, after and even before this we see a lot of delegations come from all over the world. All of them are ready, they are interested, they are eager to come here and work with us.

    RS: Iran's position is they have made enough concessions, that they're nuclear program is open for inspections. Even so, a deal wasn't struck. Why are you so optimistic that eventually a deal will happen?

    MRN: For sure it will happen. Why? Because we are a peaceful people. We have a capable country. We have more than four million students at university. We have the natural resources. We are ready and we are open for collaboration with the world. And we hope that with collaboration everybody will have the interest out of it and it will be a win-win play.

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