With eye to Rowhani's Paris visit, French firms head to Iran

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani (R) welcomes French foreign minister Laurent Fabius in Tehran July 29, 2015. (File photo: Reuters)

A senior French economic and political delegation heads to Tehran on Sunday to lay the groundwork for the first business contracts between France and Iran since an accord to curb its nuclear programme in July.

France’s main business lobby group, the Medef, is sending a delegation comprising more than 100 firms to Iran, including companies such as oil major Total, planemaker Airbus and car manufacturer Peugeot.

“We’re trying to identify areas where we can move forward, but we’re not going to do business at any cost.”

The delegation includes most of France’s CAC 40 companies, but also small and medium enterprises with sectors as wide-ranging as agriculture, finance, luxury goods, pharmaceuticals, construction and transport represented.

Heading it up are Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll and Trade Minister Matthias Fekl, who will open a new trade office in the Iranian capital on Sept. 22.

France took one of the hardest lines of the six powers negotiating the nuclear agreement with Iran.

But Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who travelled in the summer to Tehran to smooth over ties, has said he does not believe that will hurt its companies once international sanctions against the Islamic Republic are lifted. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is due to visit Paris in November.

Officials say Paris may initially secure deals in areas that were not specifically hit by European Union and U.S. sanctions, most notably in the agriculture and livestock sectors, in which France has relatively little activity in Iran.

“We’re going to work on subjects in particular in agriculture and agribusiness,” Le Foll told Reuters.

“We’ll see the potential and the possibilities for trade with Iran and that also means in the agriculture sector, most notably in meat and chicken.”

One official said the visit could lead to expressions of interest that could become agreements by November, although big contracts were impossible until the lifting of sanctions.

Sanctions lifting would begin in the first quarter of 2016 if Iran meets its obligations under the deal, designed to stop it acquiring nuclear weapons.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45