Business France Office Opened in Tehran
Ayrault said development of France’s economic ties with Iran would
benefit both countries,
adding that Paris had never been so eager to expand relations with
any other country.
In the face of growing tensions resulting from what many see as the
unfolding anti-Iran approach by US President Donald Trump, France used a
late January visit to Tehran by its Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to
show its support for the expansion of economic relations with Iran.
Ayrault told a meeting of Iranian-French business leaders that last year’s
nuclear deal with Iran had opened a new era that had already led to a major
expansion of relations between the two countries.
He said that protecting the Iran nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan
of Action (JCPOA) – was “extremely important” for Paris.
The top French diplomat emphasized that it was the JCPOA that opened the way
for France to move ahead with the expansion of its relations with Iran in
Ayrault said development of France’s economic ties with Iran would benefit
both countries, adding that Paris had never been so eager to expand
relations with any other country.
He further named the deals that Iran had already signed with companies
Total, Renault and Airbus as examples of French determination to promote
economic ties with the Islamic Republic.
Nevertheless, Ayrault emphasized that the current banking hurdles remaining
from the years that Iran was under sanctions still needed to be removed to
further facilitate trade between Tehran and Paris.
The remarks by the French foreign minister came on the heels of a
controversial decision by President Trump to ban Iranian nationals from
entering the U.S.
The French foreign minister – who headed a delegation of 100 businesspeople
in his Tehran trip - had further announced that Paris would double visas for
Iranians in 2017 in what was seen as a response to the US ban against
“France wants to be able to allow a larger number of Iranians wishing to
travel to France to ask for a visa in improved conditions,” he was quoted as
“This project, which aims to double the number of visas currently issued for
Iran, should take effect in the summer of 2017,” he said at the French
ambassador’s residence in Tehran.
France has been issuing 41,000 visas a year to Iranian nationals.
Threefold Jump in Trade
“France wants to be able to allow a larger number of Iranians
wishing to travel to France to ask for a visa in improved
conditions,” he was quoted as saying.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaking in the same business
meeting, noted that trade between Iran and France following the
implementation of the JCPOA has seen a threefold jump.
Zarif said bilateral trade in the 11 months of 2016 stood at €1.7 billion.
“The two countries’ potential for economic cooperation is far more than
that,” he said.
He added that the post-sanctions era has opened up new opportunities for
both countries to have effective economic ties.
“With the political developments in the United States and Europe, economic
collaboration with other countries is facing numerous challenges. Yet, the
Islamic Republic of Iran is all set to become a reliable trade partner for
European countries, particularly France, based on mutual interests,” he
Zarif underlined the importance of partnership between the private sectors
of the two countries. “Particular attention should be directed toward small-
and medium-scale projects as well as major and large-scale projects,” he
“Cooperation with France is welcome in different sectors of oil and natural
gas, petrochemicals, transportation, mining, science and technology, water
and environment since these sectors are Iran’s priorities in the sixth
five-year development plan (2016-21).”
The development plans offer a medium-term roadmap designed by the government
and Majlis to help achieve sustainable growth, outlining strategies in its
budget planning for the next five years.
Ayrault said France has planned long-term cooperation with Iran in
infrastructural projects, such as rail, ports, aviation and renewable
“Development of bilateral economic ties is contingent on training young
workforce, and French companies are ready to provide such training in modern
agriculture, management of infrastructures, transportation and higher
education,” he said.
Ayrault viewed the absence of human capital as a major obstacle to
improvement of mutual ties and said, “Over the past months, 17 memorandums
of understanding have been signed between the two countries’ universities,
which are bound to have an effective impact on the quality of future
He also viewed the opening of “Business France” office in Tehran as a sign
of France’s determination to improve cooperation with Iran and said
normalization of banking ties is being pursued by his government.
Paris opened the first major European trade office in Tehran back in
September 2015 during the visit of a French delegation led by the Minister
of State for Foreign Trade, Tourism and French Nationals Overseas Matthias
Fekl and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and Government
Spokesperson Stephane Le Foll.
The new Business France office, located at the country’s diplomatic mission
in Tehran, seeks to facilitate commercial relations between the two
Major French corporations, including plane maker Airbus, oil giant Total and
automobile manufacturers Peugeot and Renault, have all signed deals with
Iranian companies following the nuclear deal.
“France has been quick in issuing export guarantees for Iran and this is an
indication of trust we have in Iran. Iran, for its part, has to remove its
financial obstacles for foreign investors to enter the market,” Ayrault
“Currently, complications associated with money transfer and banking
transactions are the main obstacle to commercial interactions between the
two countries,” said President of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries,
Mines and Agriculture, Gholamhossein Shafei, who was hosting the meeting.
Shafei added that given the extensive experience and high-end technological
development of French industries, companies of the two sides can forge
alliances in fields such as infrastructure, construction, pharmaceuticals,
medical equipment, transportation, environment and telecommunications.
Five MOUs Inked
At the end of
the meeting, five memorandums of understanding were signed between the two
sides, including a cooperation document for development of Mashhad
International Airport, two MoUs with Iran Fisheries Organization, one for
the construction of a bioethanol factory in Kermanshah and another for
sturgeon farming technology transfer.