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France to send major trade team to Iran

Source: Press TV

French officials say a major trade delegation will arrive in Tehran later this month to study investment potentials in Iran. The initiative will be led by France's main business lobby group, the Medef.

The delegation that it plans to send to Tehran will comprise about 130 firms, including top companies such as Total and Peugeot.

They will be accompanied by the trade and agriculture ministers and will arrive in the Iranian capital on September 21 for a three-day visit, Reuters reported.

"This visit is very important for us," said Thibault de Silguy, vice-president of construction company Vinci and of the Medef, who will lead the delegation to Iran.

"We have fallen behind, so now we have to make up lost ground," he told reporters. Among countries that already have a lead on French firms, he cited Germany, Austria, China and the United States.

France took one of the hardest lines of the six powers negotiating the nuclear agreement with Iran. But Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who traveled to Tehran over the summer to smooth over relations, has repeatedly said he did not believe that would hurt its companies once international sanctions against the Islamic Republic were lifted.

Unlike other visiting Western ministers he did not take any business leaders with him despite meeting key Iranian ministers who deal with the hydrocarbons, transport and automobile sectors, all areas where French firms hope to seal contracts.

French firms were once heavily involved in the Iranian market, but European Union and in particular US sanctions adopted in 2011 scared them away.

"There will need to be offers that have a strong local dimension and are competitive in pricing, but also the financial problems need to be resolved," de Silguy said.

French imports from Iran fell to just €62 million in 2013 from €1.77 billion in 2011. Exports fell to €494 million in 2013 from €1.66 billion in 2011, according to French foreign ministry estimates.

French bank BNP Paribas was fined almost $9 billion by the US in 2014 for transactions that were found in violation of anti-Iran sanctions.

French diplomats say their banks are especially hesitant and will wait to see how American lenders react to the lifting of sanctions before supporting French firms in Iran.

"It's a major concern that could be a deal breaker if all Western firms are hamstrung by the banks," said a senior diplomat. "However, if we overcome this hurdle, I think French firms will get their fair share of the pie."

... Payvand News - 09/11/15 ... --

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