French firms are worried that their government’s headstrong approach in nuclear talks with Iran might have harmed their business chances as international companies are jostling for position in one of the lucrative emerging markets.
“The very tough stance has created some aggressive thinking vis-à-vis France and everything that represents France, like our company,” Carlos Tavares, the chief executive of PSA Peugeot Citroen, has told Financial Times.
Paris is apparently on a damage control campaign, inviting President Hassan Rouhani to the Elysee Palace in November after sending Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who resorted to the most assertive approach in nuclear negotiations, to Tehran in late July to placate the Iranians.
Currently, officials of about 150 French companies are visiting Iran, led by Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll and Trade Minister Matthias Fekl who are tagged along by representatives of energy companies Total and Technip and plane manufacturer Airbus.
Their sponsor is Medef, France's main business lobby group, which has warned Paris risks losing out to rivals from Europe and Asia.
“We have fallen behind, so now we have to make up lost ground,” said Medef Vice President Thibault de Silguy.
“The Americans are at the doorstep, the Germans are at the doorstep, the Chinese are there, the Koreans are there. Everybody is of course looking at the cake,” FT quoted him as saying.
The newspaper, citing one senior executive, singled out Iran’s “candy store” of assets, referring to the country’s energy resources as one of the biggest prizes on offer for grabs.
In Iran, some observers are worried, warning that the planned onslaught by foreign companies could unleash a capital flight and exacerbate Iran’s unemployment problem.
According to the news website, Afkar Khabar, Iran faces “a foray by the countries which are on the brink of bankruptcy and seek to take advantage of Iran’s vast and unfortunately thirsty market in order to put off their so-called Greekization”.