Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma
Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma Reuters

India on Tuesday sought investment support from France in infrastructure, transport high technology and energy sectors. Commerce and Industry minister Anand Sharma met his French counterpart Nicole Bricq and reiterated PM Manmohan Singh's plan to boost investor sentiment in these key industries.

Sharma held bilateral talks with the French minister for foreign trade in Paris and stressed on "the need for French government to provide strategic support to French industries interested in doing business with India."

A growing number of business leaders in France have accused their government of unpredictable policies that are holding back investment.

"What's really a problem is this permanent changing of the rules. That holds back investment," Didier Lombard, Chairman of STMicroelectronics NV, Europe's largest semiconductor maker told Wall Street Journal. "It's worrying."

Sharma called for "strong French support at the political level for early conclusion of the India-EU Broad based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA)". Since the negotiations for the BTIA were launched in June 2007, there have been several meetings between India and the European Union (EU), but both the sides are still engaged and yet to conclude on several issues.

Business anxieties are high not just among French firms with high payroll; even small sector companies are suffering due to tight regulations by the European Union.

French CEOs raised concerns over the Supreme Court verdict of denying Swiss pharma Novartis's request patent protection for anti-cancer drug Glivec in April this year.

Sharma defended India's intellectual property system saying, "India's Intellectual Property laws were completely TRIPs (Trade Related Property Rights) compliant and India has used the TRIPs flexibility with far greater restraint than a number of other countries, including some developed countries."

He also pointed out that "it was ruling by the highest Court and not an executive pronouncement."

There are 700 French companies present in India who have contributed to FDI (foreign direct investment) inflows worth ₹17,088 crore since April 2000. However, France contributes just a meager 2 percent in the total FDI inflows to India.