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Iran/bilateral relations

Published on September 22, 2015
Interview given by M. Matthias Fekl, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, published in the Iranian daily newspaper Financial Tribune¹
Tehran, September 19, 2015

Q. – What objectives are you pursuing in your upcoming visit?

THE MINISTER – I am coming to send a strong political message for the development of our economic ties with Iran. The lifting of sanctions following the Vienna agreement has created excellent opportunities, for both French and Iranian businesses, in the interests of both our countries.

The potential of France’s relationship with Iran goes far beyond the strictly economic and commercial dimension. Respect and restart are the two key words that describe the current phase of our bilateral relations. As you know, the relationship between France and Iran is above all deeply rooted in history. Our two countries are tied on all subjects, be they political, cultural, economic, strategic or intellectual.

During this visit, along with our Minister of Agriculture and Agrifood and Government Spokesperson Stéphane Le Foll, I will be meeting several Iranian ministers to discuss key issues for our future partnership. Moreover, we will be accompanied by the largest delegation of foreign companies to visit Iran since the Vienna agreement.

France has also decided to step up its local provisions to support businesses: starting from this September, the economic services of the embassy will be reinforced and a Business France office will be inaugurated during this visit. Minister Laurent Fabius has also appointed Ambassador Nicolas Niemtchinow to handle day-to-day political follow-up of the growth of our economic relations.

Q. – Which sectors of your economy are you promoting in particular?

THE MINISTER – This trip is the first visit by a French minister of foreign trade or the economy to Iran in many years. I would like us to boost lasting economic and commercial relations based on respect and partnership.

That is why I wanted the first France-Iran business forum to take place, with an event for business-to-business meetings between French and Iranian companies, in order to widen horizons, deepen existing opportunities and work on needs expressed by our Iranian friends and partners.

During this visit, a wide sample of the sector is represented, corresponding to France’s excellent range, including agrifood, industry, infrastructure, transport, healthcare, energy, aviation, consumer goods and distribution.

Q. – In these sectors, what is France’s advantage over other countries, especially Germany, willing to re-enter into business with Iran?

THE MINISTER – Our industries and businesses have long contributed their expertise in sectors including the automobile industry, where French manufacturers have represented up to 30% of the Iranian market, and in aviation. Similarly, France can respond to the Iranian people’s strong demand in the medical and agrifood sectors.
Lastly, other sectors where French expertise is world-renowned and has great potential, such as infrastructure, transport, environmental services, information and communication technologies and energy are also represented.

Q. – How will any future Tehran-Paris partnership benefit Iran’s economy?

THE MINISTER – Like Iran, France is determined to make our relations a long-term affair and foster sustainable partnerships. France stands beside Iran to contribute to its economic development. In concrete terms, that means joint ventures for the Iranian economy, as well as investment in key sectors for its development, in training, and in the creation of jobs for Iranians.

Q. – Senior French executive Yves Thibault de Silguy has been quoted as saying that “French firms have fallen behind their main European, American and Asian rivals in reviving economic ties with Iran.” What’s your comment on that?

THE MINISTER – All entrepreneurs know that it is important not to confuse speed with precipitation. A comprehensive, quality partnership in line with the economic potential of our two countries requires a serious approach. But it is important to bear in mind that this visit follows on from a first MEDEF (French business confederation) delegation in February 2014. I welcome the interest of our companies in the potential of the Iranian market.

Q. – How do you plan to mend the fact that France, perhaps wrongly, has been viewed as the “bad cop” during the nuclear negotiations, due to the stance of Minister Laurent Fabius?

THE MINISTER – France has always desired a long-term solution to this crisis through diplomatic channels. As early as 2003 and in partnership with Germany and the United Kingdom – and later China, the United States and Russia in 2006 – we initiated dialogue with the Iranian authorities.

France’s position in nuclear negotiations has been clear and consistent. It is founded on objective non-proliferation criteria, which I would like to emphasize do not apply only to Iran.

We wanted an agreement, but it had to be sound, and a real guarantor of peace.
While France’s line was judged demanding during these discussions, that was not in order to represent any particular country or interest. Rather, it sought to ensure that we would reach an agreement that credibly addressed the concerns of the international community. Any other agreement would have been concluded at the cost of regional stability and the safety of the Iranian people.

The sanctions did indeed obstruct trade between Iran and France for several years, but also that with all Iran’s European partners. The conditions for a recovery of our trade that is both realistic and ambitious are now met. That is my message for Iran.

¹Source of English text: Financial Tribune website.

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