Taipei, Nov. 6 (CNA) A waiver exempting Taiwan from sanctions on Iranian oil imposed by the United States reflects Taipei's efforts to build good channels of communication with Washington, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said Tuesday.
The United States has granted Taiwan a six-month waiver on oil imports from Iran, an MOEA official said, indicating that the U.S. government realized through effective communications that Taiwan needed time to find alternative sources of supply.
Lining up alternative oil sources will be very important to Taiwan because of its economy's dependence on energy imports, even if crude oil imports from Iran represent only a small fraction of the total, the official said.
According to state-run oil company CPC Corp. Taiwan, which is supervised by the MOEA, crude from Iran has accounted for 2-3 percent of its total purchases so far this year, far behind 23 percent from the U.S., 23 percent from Saudi Arabia and 19 percent from the United Arab Emirates.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced a second round of sanctions on Iran on Nov. 2, calling the regime a destabilizing force in the Middle East. The sanctions took effect on Nov. 5.
In May, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that his country would unilaterally withdraw from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran, paving the path for the latest sanctions.
In addition to Taiwan, seven other countries -- China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Turkey -- have been granted a waiver by the U.S. to buy oil from Iran.
In addition to oil imports from Iran, Washington's sanctions have also targeted the country's shipping, shipbuilding and banking sectors.
The MOEA official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Taiwan will follow the U.S.'s lead on sanctions against Iran in those other areas to prevent Taipei from being blacklisted and face penalties from Washington.
Meanwhile, Formosa Petrochemical Corp., a privately owned gasoline supplier in Taiwan and a rival to CPC, said crude oil imports from Iran account for less than 5 percent of its total purchases a year.
Still, the waiver from Washington will help the company continue its diversification of oil supply sources to ensure foreign supplies, a Formosa Petrochemical spokesperson said.
The company suggested, however, that continuing to buy crude from Iran could still be difficult in the future despite the waiver because of the Trump administration's sanctions on Iran's financial sector.
Those sanctions could make it difficult for foreign buyers to pay for their purchases through viable foreign exchange channels, the spokesperson said.