Mumbai: French President Francois Hollande on Friday said French companies are willing to invest up to $1 billion in India, but asked New Delhi to take necessary steps to open up the market by removing obstacles. "There are always obstacles to opening markets," Hollande said addressing industry leaders in the financial capital this evening but clarified he is not meddling in the political affairs of this country.
Admitting that obstacles (to market reform) exist in both the countries, Hollande, winding up his two-day state visit said, "I am not here to interfere in the political decisions but these decisions (to open up markets) are nonetheless necessary. We are all convinced that India has a great future and we want to partake in that," he said, adding the country has the potential to grow at 10 per cent and faces "immense challenges commensurate with its size".
French companies led by the retailer Carrefour and nuclear major Areva, among others, have been waiting to invest in the country but like others in the developed world have blamed the policy environment as being the impeding factor. Underscoring the deep economic ties between the two nations, Hollande said the relations go back to over 150 years with the pioneer being the bank, BNP, and said assets created by 750 French companies here stand at $17 billion at present.
He added that French businesses would like to invest more in an emerging economy like India. "We pride ourselves on being one of the biggest investors here. The stock of our assets here is $17 billion and we wish to increase this investment flow by $1 billion. We are ready for it," he said.
Hollande said French companies are particularly interested in sectors like urban development, railways, space science, energy and nuclear energy given their expertise. Claiming that the the Eurozone crisis is over, Hollande said recession is a major challenge he faces domestically and also invited Indian investments.
"We need help of everybody, especially the big emerging economies like India," he said. Speaking about the need to increase bilateral trade, he said even though there is potential to ramp it up to $12 billion per year, it is only $8 billion now.
On the proposed Indo-EU Free Trade Agreement he said all efforts should be made to increase trade. The FTA negotiations are likely to be completed by April. The French President said when it comes to cooperation, there is a need for the engagement to move beyond the traditional defence and nuclear energy, and offered to facilitate measures in the cultural and scientific spheres also.