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Fabius visits Indonesia in south-east Asia trade drive

French President François Hollande with Airbus's Fabrice Bregier and Lion Air's Rusdi Kirana as they sign an order for French-built planes Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius began a two-day visit to Indonesia Thursday in an effort to boost France’s economic presence in a country with annual growth of six per cent. President François Hollande may follow him soon.

Fabius was accompanied by representatives of 13 French companies and the trip is a sign of a “new spirit” in relations between the two countries, France’s embassy in Jakarta said in a statement.

Although French big hitters Total and Galéries Lafayette have interests in Indonesia and L’Oréal opened its biggest factory in the world there in 2012, France only has a one per cent share in the country’s market.

That is not just lower than other Asian countries but also behind the UK and Germany.

Indonesia, a potential market of 240 million, has enjoyed growth of over six per cent every year since 2005.

Fabius’s visit follows a trip by Foreign Trade Minister Nicole Bricq two months ago and a visit by Hollande has been mooted but has yet to be confirmed.

He was to meet his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natelagawa, Finance Minister Chatib Basri and Jero Wacik, as well as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

He was also set to visit the headquarters of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) and discuss with secretary-general Le Luong Minh.

He will then go on to Le’s homeland, Vietnam, for a two-day visit.

France is hoping to expand its interests in Asia and several official visits have taken place recently:

While France slipped one place in the world arms-sales league last year, India was its biggest customer and Malaysia its third biggest.