French Business Agency May Change Status in Russia

A French government agency responsible for fostering export growth and promoting the nation’s image as a business-oriented country may hold a tender on promoting its interests in Russia in the autumn, Kommersant writes citing a French diplomatic source.

“The terms of the bid have not yet been unveiled, though one can expect a prominent structure in France, such as the Franco-Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry or MEF (the Finance Ministry) to participate in it,” the source said.

The move can enable the Russian office of Business France to resume operations in the country outside of the French embassy, the paper adds.

This follows the closure of the French trade mission in Moscow announced earlier this week, “in connection with the notification by Russian authorities that Business France is no longer authorized to operate in Russia within the framework of the provisions of French legislation,” as stated by the French embassy. On Tuesday, July 17, Russia’s Foreign Ministry confirmed receiving the note on the closure of the trade mission.

Experts and diplomats interviewed by Kommersant assume that the mixed legal status of the agency, both in Russia and in France, is the main reason for the recent problems. Officially, it is a “state commercial and industrial enterprise”, a term used in French law for defining a number of companies with state participation. The agency, established on January 1, 2015, as a merger of Ubifrance and Invest in France, is set to be a partner of commercial companies focusing on French imports and exports and attracting investments to France.

A source close to the French embassy noted, “according to Russian legislation, the operations of Business France were not legal.”

“The service was involved in commercial operations, collecting payments from companies for intermediary and logistics services, while an embassy cannot be involved in commercial activities,” he explained to the paper.