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French cos seek 'opportunities' in India

According to French trade statistics, the two-way trade between the two countries stood at 3.29 billion Euros in May 2004.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2006 18:54 IST

Making it clear that domestic resistance to further opening up the economy was inhibiting increased foreign investment, France has said its companies were hoping for "new opportunities" and that Indian "polity" has to decide how reforms process should be "broadened".

"Our companies are expecting and hoping that the range of possibilities (in India) will be broadened as much as possible," French Ambassador Dominique Girard told PTI in an interview in New Delhi.

Asked how his country saw the opposition by Left parties to further opening up of the economy, he said "India is a democratic country... It is for you to solve that."

Noting that India's growth after liberalisation was "very much in tune" with what it started in 1991, Girard said "today, yes, it is for Indian polity, India's political forces to set the kind of way it (economic reforms) is to be done."

The envoy underlined that it was "not for us to dictate or to request. But it is a fact that we are quite hopeful that the reform process will open up new opportunities. But it is for you to decide."

Left parties, which are providing crucial support to the UPA government, have been resisting economic reforms in various sectors, particularly raising caps on FDI.

Queried whether voices of opposition here to further opening up of economy were causing inhibition to companies of his country from coming here, the Ambassador referred to retail trade and said French firms had "opened lots and lots of operations and activities in most of Asian countries but not in India yet because your regulations do not permit".

Girard said French retail businessmen were "waiting and watching. They will seize the opportunities when they come up. Today, it is not possible. They think, may be tomorrow it will become possible".

He went on to add: "the problem is not the position of the Left or Communists or whoever. It is not the problem of whose voice is raising this or that. The problem is what the overall situation is. We take it as a whole."

The envoy said "when tomorrow, it is possible to invest in retail trade in full speed, when it is possibile to invest in Indian defence industry without any limit, etc, we will be there and our companies will be there."

Pointing out that India's image had undergone a change lately with it being seen as a major opportunity for business, Girard said "none of those people (business leaders) ignore India."

Girard said the economic relations between India and France had witnessed good development over the last eight years and the two-way trade had been growing "very satisfactorily".

Talking about last year, the Ambassador said French exports to India had increased by 40 per cent while the Indian exports to France had grown by 20 per cent.

The two countries were aiming at doubling the two-way trade in the next five years, he said.

According to French trade statistics, the two-way trade between the two countries stood at 3.29 billion Euros in May 2004.

The sectors of key French interest have been in fuel (power and oil refinery) followed by chemicals, cement and gypsum products, glass and food processing industries.

Major French companies, particularly Lafarge, Asltom, Alcatel, St Gobain, Air Liquide, L'Oreal, Danone are already operating in India.

Other areas of French interest include power, hydrocarbons, telecommunications, auto components, agro-industries, drugs, pharmaceuticals, environment, water resources management and waste management.

First Published: Feb 13, 2006 18:08 IST