French President seeks more trade on India trip

MUMBAI (AFP) - French President Francois Hollande wrapped up his two-day trip to India on Friday with a call for more investment and trade between the countries as he met with business leaders.

Mr Hollande, making his first trip to Asia since taking office last year, said that trade between India and France was barely 8 billion euros ($13 billion) annually - far from an objective of 12 billion euros set in 2008.

The French leader has sought to sell France for its infrastructure and highly educated labour force in a trip that has focused on business, particularly on the sale to New Delhi of French fighter jets and nuclear technology.

"The idea of my visit, beyond friendship and our historical links and our common positions about the future of the world, is also to intensify economic and trade links," he said in New Delhi.

He arrived later on Friday in commercial capital Mumbai for a meeting with 250 business chiefs.

After talks between Mr Hollande and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday, the two leaders stressed that negotiations were progressing on the world's biggest defence deal, the sale of 126 French fighter jets to India.

Mr Hollande's trip was seen by analysts as vital in giving a push to the US$12-billion purchase, which manufacturer Dassault Aviation hopes to conclude after being chosen for exclusive negotiations in January last year.

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