France is one of the three European countries, along with Germany and the United Kingdom, with an embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan (France shares its diplomatic premises with Germany). Brunei opened a diplomatic representation in Paris in July 1989, and has had a resident ambassador since September 1991.
The Sultan made a State visit to France in December 1996, followed by several working visits to Paris and an official visit in June 2008. He also met with the French President in October 2008 during the ASEM summit in Beijing, coordinated by France and Brunei, as well as in Vientiane in November 2012.
The Crown Prince, HRH Billah Bolkiah, made a working visit to France in June 2006 and met with the French President.
Trade flows between France and Brunei are quite irregular. In 2015, they represented about €72 million, generating a surplus for France of €70 million (excluding defence orders). France is the second-largest private investor in the country. The main French economic players are Total, Airbus and BNP Paribas.
Total is the country’s second-largest producer of hydrocarbons (approximately 8% of national production) and employs more than half of its registered expatriates. In total, a dozen French companies are present in Brunei, including SDV, Air Liquide and Saint-Gobain. In the energy and oil services sectors, the companies Schneider and Alstom, along with suppliers for hydrocarbon prospection and production such as Spie-Batignolles and Schlumberger, are also present.
In banking, BNP Paribas has a 15% stake in Baiduri Bank Group (the majority of shares are held by members of the royal family) and is involved in the bank’s management, with one of its manager’s holding the position of CEO. The portfolio management company Amundi, a joint venture of Société Générale and Crédit Agricole, is present on the offshore market.
Aviation orders are a major, if volatile, part of our sales (choice in March 2014 of Airbus to renew Royal Brunei’s medium-haul fleet), as well as equipment for the gas and oil industries.
Our cultural cooperation is built around the Alliance française branch in Brunei, which was created in 1986. French has been taught at university since late 2001.
Museography is also an important field. Total’s sponsorship enabled the organization in 2001-2002 of an exhibition on the archaeological excavation of a 15ᵗʰ century Chinese junk that sunk of the coast of Brunei.
Cooperation has developed between the University of Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and various French universities, including La Rochelle and Montpellier I, to foster student and researcher exchanges in the fields of marine resource management, cartography, medicine and pharmacy.
Three cooperation agreements were signed during the visit of Brunei’s Minister of Education to France in December 2008, particularly between UBD on the one hand and the French National Natural History Museum and Montpellier I University on the other.
Updated: 24 May 2016