France and Bolivia

Political relations

Since 2009, bilateral relations have been punctuated with political consultations at senior official level. The most recent took place respectively in Paris and La Paz on 13 November 2013 and 7 March 2017. Major multilateral issues are among the main themes of our bilateral relationship, including student mobility, reducing poverty, democratic governance and cooperation regarding public health.

Visits

France and Bolivia have maintained diplomatic relations since 1845. Two French Presidents have visited Bolivia: General de Gaulle in 1964 and President Chirac in 1997.

President Morales has made several visits to France: as President elect in January 2006, then again in May 2006, February 2009, March 2013 and November 2015. Mr Jean-Pierre Bel, Personal Envoy of the President of the French Republic for Latin America and the Caribbean, travelled to La Paz on 6-8 March 2017 for high-level discussions with local government.

As regards ministerial visits, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Laurent Fabius, met with President Evo Morales on the sidelines of COP20 and to prepare COP21, respectively in Lima in December 2014, and Cochabamba, in October 2015. The Bolivian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr David Choquehuanca, has visited France on several occasions: January and July 2008, January 2011, October 2012 and November 2013. In his last two visits, he was received by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The Minister of Planning and Development, Mr René Orellana, made a working visit to France on 12-15 December 2016. During his visit, he met with Mr Matthias Fekl, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, and with Mr Jean-Pierre Bel. Finally, the Transport Minister, Mr Milton Claros, made a working visit to France on 26-28 January 2017 where he met his French counterpart and held discussions with AFD representatives.

For more information, please visit the Embassy website (in French)

Economic relations

Trade between Bolivia and France is limited (0.02% of our trade). French investment, which is estimated at over US$500 million, could more than double if Total’s plans are implemented (development of the Incahuasi gas field).

France’s trade balance deficit (€38 million) with Bolivia is structural owing to increased French purchases of mining products and metals. The geographical isolation of this small market also explains low direct sales, because many French products found in Bolivia are imported and distributed from neighbouring countries (Chile, Peru and Brazil), and do not appear in the bilateral statistics.

Our exports have risen sharply, but still remain at a low level (0.02% of our exports, i.e. €26 million in the first half of 2015, up 120% compared to 2013). Bolivia is ranked 126th among our clients (2015). France is the country’s 14th largest supplier. The main exports are, in order of importance, transport equipment (50%), pharmaceuticals and cosmetics (20%) and chemical products (5%).

Imports from Bolivia mostly consist of mining products and are falling. They amounted to €93 million in 2015 and have fallen by 13%. The main imports are oil and other extractive industry products (50%), agricultural and agrifood products (25%) and organic chemical products (20%).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Cultural cooperation is based on the French-Bolivian Lycée in La Paz (1,044 students), the French Lycée in Santa Cruz (it has 485 students and continues to expand), and five Alliances Françaises (La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Sucre and Tarija, accounting for nearly 2,500 students, half of whom are in La Paz). In the scientific field, the French Institute for Andean Studies (IFEA) and a branch of the Research Institute for Development (IRD), with a dozen researchers, are working in particular on the issue of climate change and the melting of glaciers (Ice Memory project).

This network promotes the French language, French education, as well as French thinking, scientific expertise and cultural industries. In addition, some 20 university cooperation partnerships and framework agreements have been signed by French and Bolivian higher education institutions. An agreement on mutual recognition of diplomas is currently under consideration. Student exchanges mainly involve high-level training in the fields of energy, aviation, petrochemicals, geology, environmental sciences and information technology. As regards student mobility, France receives over 350 Bolivian students every year via the Bolivian government’s national scholarship programme. More than half of the scholarship holders selected by the Bolivian authorities (24 out of 39) are in France.

Other cooperation

Until 2017, French development cooperation is governed by a Debt Reduction and Development Contract (C2D). Its priorities are health and public management. In the field of health, the C2D has made it possible to build and equip a hospital and a laboratory in Santa Cruz since 2003, as well as a mother and child centre in Guayaramerin, and to strengthen health networks and access to care. In 2015, an additional €3 million was earmarked to facilitate the purchase of a hospital ship, equipped with a device for filtering water for isolated populations in Amazonia. For governance, C2D funds have been used since 2009 to support the development of Bolivia’s Plurinational Public Management School (EGPP), notably by strengthening the lifelong training of civil servants and local government officials, and encouraging research activities relating to governance and public administration.

The AFD has been authorized to work in Bolivia since 2014. As a priority, it supports development projects for green and inclusive growth in the areas of energy, water and sanitation. Its 2016 action plan includes finance for a solar power plant (Cochabamba, $125 million), a wind farm (Santa Cruz, $50 million) and a hydroelectric plant (Banda Azul, $230 million), as well as three water treatment plants, and an irrigation project (Cochabamba, $34 million).

Updated: 20 April 2017

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