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Why One Company in France Won’t Bid Adieu to Iran

Why One Company in France Won’t Bid Adieu to IranWhy One Company in France Won’t Bid Adieu to Iran

As the US reimposes sanctions on Iran, some small European businesses remain steadfast in their choice to continue trading with Tehran despite “risks”.

The US sanctions on Iran are forcing many European companies to rethink their investment plans. But some small businesses are choosing to deal with Iranians, rather than Americans.

Al Jazeera’s David Chater went to Chateauroux in France, where one company is doing big business with Iran.

The town of Chateauroux in the Val de Loire dates back to the Middle Ages. At first glance, its streets and architecture mark it as the classic of the region. But delve deeper, and you come across a suburb that comes straight out of the US of A.

The biggest American military base in Europe used to be housed here. The former NATO headquarters has been taken over by the French cosmetics company Pier Auge.

They’re selling more than $900,000 worth of eye cream and moisturizer to the Islamic Republic of Iran. There’s a rising demand for its products by the younger generation, both women and men, and not just in Tehran but right across the country.

The president of the company proudly told me, she counts Hillary Clinton as a fan and she will not bow to the pressure from Washington to stop trading with Iran.

“We have tried to value this risk and as most people say we are too small a company to say bye-bye to one of our good and loyal customers. So why exiting Iran? So we go on, we’ll see,” said Christine Vallin, Pier Auge president.

Small companies like this one won’t appear on US President Donald Trump’s sanctions radar, but they believe the European Commission won’t be able to defend them. They know they’re taking a risk.

It’s a risk the big multinational companies in France dare not take. Companies such as Total and Peugeot Citroen have too much to lose. The same applies right across the European Union. The retreat from doing business in Iran could turn into a rout.

“The idea over here is basically to suffocate the Iranian economy and to strangle its financial system. So they’re not gonna allow for anything that is going to enable Iran to be able to enjoy a balloon of oxygen coming towards it,” said Ardavan Amir-Aslani, a lawyer.

Back in Chateauroux, the American flag is still flying above a bread factory called Harry’s. A local entrepreneur in the town started the business after being intrigued by the squares of white bread the American service men were eating. Now it bakes around 130 million loaves a year.

The population is declining, as young people move to find jobs. The American sanctions meant to suffocate Iran could also suffocate the town’s hopes for the future.

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