Domestic Economy

Paris Seeks to Restore Effective Business Ties

Paris Seeks to Restore Effective Business Ties Paris Seeks to Restore Effective Business Ties

Laurent Fabius, the first top French diplomat to visit Tehran in more than a decade, says Iran’s landmark nuclear accord with world powers could spur economic cooperation between the two countries.

Fabius arrived in Tehran for a one-day visit on Wednesday. His trip comes two weeks after the Vienna nuclear deal, which will see the lifting of sanctions imposed by the US, EU and the UN on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program

In addition to holding talks with President Hassan Rouhani and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, the French foreign minister was also scheduled to meet with other top officials including Minister of Industries, Mining and Trade Mohammadreza Nematzadeh and head of the Environmental Protection Agency Masoumeh Ebtekar, IRNA reported.

“The nuclear deal paves the way for much broader relations with France, in energy, transport and economics,” Zarif told a joint news conference with Fabius, who also said France was interested in opportunities in Iranian industries such as automotive.

Despite a long history of commercial, political and social links with Iran, France took one of the hardest lines among the six powers negotiating the accord.

But Fabius said last week that he believes his tough stance in the nuclear talks would not stand in the way of French business opportunities. "It's true that France was very firm," Fabius told France Inter Radio. "Will French firms be penalized? My answer is no because in the past we had an important presence in Iran."

Historically, French giant carmakers such as Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen and oil major Total were heavily involved in the Iranian market, but European Union and in particular US sanctions imposed in 2011 scared them away.

Imports from Iran to France fell to just 62 million euros in 2013 from 1.77 billion in 2011. French exports to Iran fell to 494 million euros in 2013 from 1.66 billion in 2011, according to French Foreign Ministry estimates.

But Paris is preparing for the lifting of sanctions, which could begin in the first quarter of 2016, to tap into the lucrative Iranian market.

Efforts are already underway to help French entrepreneurs lay the ground work for resuming business with Iran. France's main business lobby group, the Medef, is sending a delegation comprised of about 80 firms to Tehran at the end of September.

Even before the nuclear deal was concluded, a delegation from the French Senate, headed by Finance Committee Chairman Philippe Marini, visited Tehran in April, while representatives from the French National Assembly followed in June.

Competition for Iran market is fierce. Businesses across the world are keen to gain access to the country's 80 million consumers. France is also in tough competition with US giants such as General Motors and Boeing which are moving to establish themselves in Iran once sanctions are lifted.

In a recent trip to Paris, Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi held talks with executives from French firms including Thales and European planemaker Airbus, recommending them not to miss opportunities in Iran’s aviation sector in the post-sanctions era.

On Saturday, deputy head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, Mohammad Khodakarami said a delegation from France is due to visit Iran to discuss an increase in the number of direct flights between the two countries.