France has appreciated demonetisation in India, terming it as a “bold” decision which “shows how determined” Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to combat tax evasion, corruption and black money. French Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault also hailed the “significant reforms” undertaken by Modi to attract foreign investments, saying “they are in the right direction”.
Appreciating the ‘Make in India’ initiative, he told PTI in an interview that France “wishes to be a major partner, thanks to its experience, expertise and recognised technologies”.
At the same time, he said “joint efforts” should be made between the European Union and India to reduce trade barriers and pitched for reforms in India with regard to easing the import-export regime and improving the predictability and stability of regulations.
“I am impressed by the boldness of this decision. It shows how determined Prime Minister Modi is to combat tax evasion, corruption and black money. It’s also a measure aimed at modernizing the economy by accelerating the transition to a digital economy,” Ayrault, who was here on a four-day visit, said when his views were sought on demonetisation.
“We are following these developments with keen interest,” he added.
He said “The Indian economy is full of promise for entrepreneurs and we trust the government’s resolve to support the country’s economic development.”
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The French Minister, who was here primarily to attend Vibrant Gujarat, said the bilateral economic ties “are being ceaselessly strengthened”.
Pointing out that French companies have a very strong presence in India, he said they “invest, innovate and make in India”.
About 1000 French entities are spread all over the Indian territory, employing almost 3,50,000 skilled workers, and the general feeling is that this is a land “full of opportunities”, he said.
However, bilateral trade remains at a “more modest level”, which is also due to French companies fully adopting the ‘Make in India’ policy.
“But we must continue our joint efforts, between the European Union and India, to reduce trade barriers,” he said.
Reminding that the EU, of which France is a member, is India’s top exports destination, Ayrault said, “It will remain so despite Brexit”.
The French Minister said Modi has undertaken “significant reforms” to attract foreign investments, and “they are in the right direction”. These efforts, he said, “are yielding fruit, with FDIs spiralling over the past few years”.
He said France, which is one of India’s main foreign investors, intends to play a major role in these developments.
“Our companies are fully aware of the prospects open to them in a vast variety of fast-expanding sectors, like renewable energy or sustainable urban development, which Prime Minister Modi has declared to be a priority, and in which our companies have great expertise and can offer innovative technology,” he said.
He noted that French companies already account for 10 per cent of India’s installed solar capacity.
With regard to ease of doing business in India, Ayrault said, “What’s sure is that the Indian market is attractive for our companies, which are gearing up for success. They are in India for the long haul.”
He said the French companies continued their investments regardless of the global economic situation. “And they innovate in India. They have thus shown that they can prepare for the future and are confident of India’s future,” he said, adding the reforms “have played and are playing a very positive role in this respect.”
There are “other areas in which reforms could be pursued, for example, with regard to easing the import-export regime, or improving the predictability and stability of regulations,” the minister said.
On ‘Make in India’, he said the French companies have “fully incorporated” it in their policy and wish to make the most of the opportunities it presents. “There are so many wonderful examples of success,” he said.
He named Renault, saying it has become the top European manufacturer in the Indian market with the Kwid. Referring to Decathlon, he said the sports goods manufacturer and distributor has opened 50 outlets all over India.
Alstom Transport, he said, will invest in a plant in Bihar for building 800 electric locomotives.
“In the course of my trip, I have met many of our companies, dynamic and innovative enterprises that have all reiterated the same view – India is full of opportunities, and our companies are ready to seize them,” he said.