France and Cambodia have a special relationship due to their shared history, Francophonie and France’s role in furthering development in Cambodia following the 1991 Paris agreements. The Cambodian community in France also helps maintain these links.
Our relationship is, however, adapting to Cambodia’s increasing integration into its regional environment and its development towards the status of Middle-Income Country, which is targeted for 2020.
France also supports Cambodia’s United Nations peacekeeping operations by training Cambodian peacekeepers. Several technical courses are organized each year, including in the area of mine clearance, staff functions and training in French to allow them to intervene in French-speaking theatres of operation.
- The Cambodian Prime Minister, Mr Hun Sen, travelled to France on 26 October 2015, where he met with the President of the Republic and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
- Ms Girardin, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie, visited Cambodia on 18-20 May 2015.
- Mr Sun Chanthol, Cambodian Minister for Commerce, met the Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, Mr Mathias Fekl, in Paris in October 2014.
- The Minister for Culture and Communication, Ms Aurélie Filippetti, visited Cambodia on 4-5 December 2013 to attend the Intergovernmental Conference of the International Coordinating Committee for Angkor, held in Siem Reap.
- The French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, travelled to Cambodia in February 2013 to represent France at Norodom Sihanouk’s funeral. He was accompanied by Ms Yamina Benguigui, Minister Delegate for Francophonie.
- Mr Sok An, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister, met with the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Laurent Fabius, on 25 January 2013.
France is more firmly established in Cambodia than any other Western country. Its economic presence is based both on investments from major companies (Vinci, Total, Accor, BRED, etc.) and many SMEs created by French businesspeople.
Bilateral trade, although still limited (0.6% of market share), is increasing (€688 million in 2015, up from €465 million in 2014) but France still faces a trade deficit of €511 million. French exports, which are up 28% on 2014 (€88 million in 2015 compared to €69 million in 2014) are first and foremost food products (€31 million, or 35% of the total in 2015), followed by pharmaceutical products (€27 million, or 31% of the total). Sales of mechanical, electrical, electronic and computer equipment remain buoyant, climbing from €5.9 million in 2014 to €12.5 million in 2015. The clothes and textile industry make up almost all our imports (88%, or €530 million in 2015). Imports totalled €600 million in 2015, marking a 50% increase on 2014. Food products, a large share of which includes rice, are our second-largest import sector (€53 million in 2015).
France remains Europe’s leading trading partner with Cambodia, with an import market share of 0.6 %, ahead of Germany (0.5 %), Italy (0.4 %) and the United Kingdom (0.1 %).
France is now actively cooperating in many sectors:
- Academic and research cooperation: Since 1991, France has chosen to help rebuild and then consolidate higher education to provide training to young professionals who can meet their country’s development needs, thus re-forming the pool of executives nationwide which had been destroyed by the Khmer Rouge regime. France’s aim in this field is to provide long-term support to Cambodian partner universities, the main objectives being to improve the quality of teaching and the value of degrees, the professionalization of courses and the development of research in a context of regional harmonization due to the ASEAN.
- French-language teaching: Implementing cooperation, including for secondary and tertiary education by structuring the teaching of French (bilingual classes, French courses in higher education, teacher training) and providing French classes via the Institut français. French education is also available in Cambodia via the Lycée Descartes in Phnom Penh (964 students in 2015-2016, 60% of whom are Cambodian) which is part of the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE), as well as schools in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville (accredited by the AEFE).
- The Institut français in Cambodia (IFC): The IFC has always been seen as a key local operator in the field of culture. The IFC provides French courses to about 5,000 students and 80% of the users of its multimedia library are Cambodian.
Economic development and vocational training: The AFD is working on three pillars of the Cambodian economy: agriculture (rubber, irrigated rice production and conservation agriculture), textiles (vocational training, improving working conditions, health insurance cover) and tourism (urban infrastructure, vocational training, professional structuring). Its annual investment in the country is now almost €100 million.
- Governance and social cohesion: France is taking action to support both Cambodian institutions (strengthening the rule of law) and civil society. Between 2003 and 2011, about €3.6 million was invested in rebuilding the Cambodian legal system and administrative reform in the country (technical assistance and support for the Royal School of Administration). It is also providing support to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT), with contributions of over €8.7 million for the 2005-2013 period.
- Urban development and heritage: Since 1993, urban development has been one of the AFD’s main focus areas, mainly in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (water and sanitation, public works contracts, increasing public lighting in Phnom Penh, heritage protection). We are cooperating closely in the area of heritage, including as Co-Chairs of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor. Since 1995, over €6 million has been invested in restoring Baphuon Temple, with the French School of Asian Studies (EFEO) playing a major role. A programme is underway to support the restoration of West Mebon (work due to end in 2019) and a training programme on heritage jobs in partnership with Apsara Stone Conservation Unit and the Ministry of Culture’s heritage centre.
- Healthcare: Since 1992, France’s work in this area has focused on three hubs: the provision of healthcare (AFD grant to upgrade regional health centres and create a regional micro-health insurance scheme), education (project began in 2011 with a view to upgrading the University of Health Sciences to international standards) and research (Institut Pasteur and the ANRS (French National Agency for Research on AIDS and Hepatitis)). Moreover, since 2003, France, which is the world’s second-largest contributor, has been working in Cambodia under the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
For further information:
- Website of the French Embassy in Cambodia (in French)
- Facebook page of the French Embassy in Cambodia (in French)
- Website of the Institut français in Cambodia
- Website of the French Development Agency (AFD)
- Website of the French School of Asian Studies (EFEO)