Thursday, February 6, 2014

US Left Holding Starting Gun, As French Firms Stampede for Iran

US Secretary of State John Kerry told the French their over-enthusiasm was “not helpful” and only gave the wrong impression. Photo AFP
US Secretary of State John Kerry told the French their over-enthusiasm was “not helpful” and only gave the wrong impression. Photo AFP
TORONTO, Canada – The United States is yelling to France, Turkey and other allies that the race to the Iranian market cannot begin before Tehran complies with all conditions for lifting sanctions. But in an early stampede towards Iran, no one appears to be listening. 
More than 100 French executives from the biggest corporations visited Tehran this Monday, less than a week after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan landed with his large economic and energy delegation.
 US Secretary of State John Kerry told the French their over-enthusiasm was “not helpful” and only gave the wrong impression.
Wendy Sherman, the US Secretary of State for Political Affairs, said in Washington that: “Secretary Kerry has talked directly to Foreign Minister (Laurent) Fabius about the trade delegation... about how this is not helpful in this regard to ensure that in fact it is not business as usual.”
“Tehran is not open for business because our sanctions relief is quite temporary, quite limited and quite targeted,” she added.
Erdogan visited Tehran late last month to discuss Ankara’s oil and gas needs, and to boost trade.
But before Erdogan left for Tehran, US Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen cautioned him about expanding economic ties before the final stages of the agreement.
Last November, Iran signed an interim agreement with six world powers over its controversial nuclear program, promising not to enrich high grade uranium in return for an easing of some international sanctions.Most of the sanctions are still in place until a long-term agreement is signed, but in the meantime Tehran has $4.2 billion in unfrozen funds it is free to spend.


 Hence the stampede, which the Iranians love as a way of thumbing their fingers at America, or “The Great Satan.” 


Iran’s mines, industry and trade minister, Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, was reported as saying he wanted to see Iran-France trade at more than five billion euros a year. His comments came at a conference in Tehran for the visiting French delegation on economic and investment opportunities for French companies in Iran.


 The French delegation read like a “Who’s Who” of some of France’s biggest companies and industrialists, including Total, Safran, Airbus, GDF-Suez, Peugeot, Renault, Alcatel, Alstom, and L’Oréal.


Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Ali Majedi was quoted as saying that major French oil companies such as Total and Technip have voiced their willingness to invest in Iran’s oil industry.He underlined that giant oil companies are waiting for the removal of the sanctions, and that they will return to the Iranian market as soon as the sanctions are removed.

French automakers Peugeot and Renault, meanwhile, had already sent executives to Iran for an automotive conference last year.


Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted officials as saying that the French delegation is the largest European team ever to visit since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.


An anonymous source from France’s business organization, Medef, was quoted by the Le Canard Enchainé newspaper as saying that America had its own commercial ambitions in Iran, and that Washington’s real aim was to disadvantage the competition. 

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