French oil company Total is exploring options to expand its presence in the Middle East and tap the growing local market by constructing a large petrochemical complex in Iraq, according to AFP.

Patrick Pouyanne, head of Total's refining and chemicals division, said that the company signed a preliminary agreement with the Iraqi industry ministry in November last year, outlining plans to examine if a petrochemical complex in the port of Basra would be economically viable.

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A spokeswoman for the company said that the project was still in its initial stages and that at the moment there were exploratory discussions going on, which will be concluded over the next few months, AFP reported. However, Total has not determined a timeframe within which the project should be concluded and has not fixed a budget for it either, the spokeswoman added.

The French company is not the first to seek to expand its presence in the Middle East, as European markets for petrochemicals continue to shrink. Pouyanne told AFP that Total mostly wanted to focus on boosting its downstream activity. The company currently invests about 15 percent of its capital in Asia and the Middle East but hopes to increase this to 30 percent over the years through 2017, the news service said.