BEIJING (Reuters) - Executives of two Chinese companies included on a new U.S. sanctions list targeting Iran said on Sunday they had only exported “normal” goods to the Middle Eastern country and didn’t consider they had done anything wrong.
The sanctions on 25 individuals and entities imposed on Friday were the opening salvo by President Donald Trump who has vowed a more aggressive policy against Tehran and came two days after the administration had put Iran ‘on notice’ following a ballistic missile test.
Those affected under the sanctions cannot access the U.S. financial system or deal with U.S. companies and are subject to secondary sanctions, meaning foreign companies and individuals are prohibited from dealing with them or risk being blacklisted by the United States.
The list includes two Chinese companies and three Chinese people, only one of whom the U.S. Treasury Department explicitly said was a Chinese citizen, a person called Qin Xianhua.
Richard Yue, who is on the list, told Reuters he was also Chinese and that he thought the decision was unfair. His bank account had been frozen, meaning he couldn’t work, he said.
“I export to lots of countries, and Iran is a customer too. That’s totally normal,” Yue said.
“How is this fair? Why should others pay attention to what Americans say? What’s wrong with my daily use goods?”
Yue added he did not know what he would do, or whether he would try and seek help from the Chinese government.
He did not elaborate on what products his company, Cosailing Business Trading Co. Ltd, based in the northern port city of Qingdao and also on the sanctions list, exported to Iran.
The company’s website shows it is involved in trading everything from furnaces to treadmills and false eyelashes. Yue is listed on the site as Cosailing’s sales manager.
The other Chinese company on the list is Ningbo New Century Import and Export Co, based in the eastern port city of Ningbo, which business-to-business websites show advertises exports and imports of fire hydrants and inner tubes for motorcycle tyres.
An export manager at Ningbo New Century who gave his family name as Tang told Reuters they made “normal” exports to Iran, though he would not say of what.
“There’s nothing we can do. Let them put us on the sanctions list,” Tang added, declining further comment.
Reuters was not able to locate contacts for the two other Chinese people on the list.
China’s Foreign Ministry has not commented on the new sanctions.
The official Xinhua news agency, in a commentary on Sunday, said while the new sanctions would have a limited effect on Iran, they opened a new chapter in the stand-off between Washington and Tehran.
“Now Trump has taken office, uncertainly in the U.S.-Iran relationship has risen, and this may become a ticking time bomb for peace and stability in the Middle East,” Xinhua said.
China has in the past been angered by what it calls unilateral sanctions placed on Chinese firms by the United States and others in relation to Iran or North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
China has close economic and diplomatic ties with Tehran, but was also instrumental in pushing through a landmark 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear programme.
Additional reporting by Adam Jourdan in Shanghai; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman