France and Chile


France has long had a close friendship and active cooperation with Chile. Ms Michelle Bachelet’s official visit to France in June 2015, a meeting with the French President in Paris in June 2016 and President François Hollande’s official visit to Chile in January 2017, are testament to this proximity. In addition to its traditional focuses (education, research, sciences and culture, promotion of Human Rights and the environment, innovative financing mechanisms, trade), the bilateral partnership is expanding to new sectors such as technological innovation and tourism.

Political relations

Following the freeze in political relations during the dictatorship, high-level contact was re-established from 1989. Chile is notably one of France’s long-standing partners on the issue of innovative financing mechanisms for development for which France hosts the Permanent Secretariat.

Official visits are a regular occurrence with President Chirac travelling to Santiago in May 2006 and subsequent visits to France from Chilean Presidents Michelle Bachelet in May 2009, and Sebastián Piñera in October 2010. President Bachelet also made an additional official visit to France on 8 and 9 June 2015 where a joint declaration to strengthen a special partnership was signed by both presidents. Several bilateral agreements were also signed on issues including tourism, the “working holiday programme”, education, women’s rights and economic projects. Ms Bachelet, accompanied by the Minister of External Relations, Mr Muñoz, also met the President of the French Republic on 2 June 2016, alongside the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris. President Hollande made an official visit to Chile on 20 and 21 January 2017, where he paid tribute to Salvador Allende and all the victims of the dictatorship and also launched the Franco-Chilean Year of Innovation.

Ministerial visits also ensure the quality of bilateral relations is maintained: the French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, made a visit to Santiago in January 2013, accompanied by four ministers (Ms Touraine, Mr Cazeneuve, Mr Canfin and Mr Hamon), for the EU-CELAC Summit. Chiliean Interior Minister, Mr Peñailillo, was received in Paris by Mr Cazeneuve on 2 October 2014. Chilean Minister of Education, Mr Eyzaguirre, visited France on 6 November 2014, at a time when the Education Bill was being discussed in the Chilean Senate. Ms Najat Vallaud-Belkacem visited Chile from 23 to 26 April 2015. Chilean Minister of Defence, Mr Burgos, visited France in November 2014, and Mr Ottone, Minister for Culture, met with his counterpart in 2015. As regards economic matters, the Chilean Ministers for the economy, transport and telecommunications, public works, and energy, have made several visits to Paris since 2015.

Economic and trade relations

France plays an important economic role in Chile in keeping with its weight in Europe. Three-quarters of the companies listed on the CAC 40 have a significant presence in Chile. A quarter of these are leaders on their respective markets. Some of them play a key role in Chile’s economy: two subsidiaries of the Engie Group (E-CL and Auguas-Andinas) are listed in Santiago and Sodexo is one of the five leading private-sector employers in Chile. In 2016, France was Chile’s fourth-largest European supplier and second-largest European exporter of vehicles. France’s commercial deficit with Chile is structural due to Chile’s importance in global copper supplies accounting for nearly a third of global copper production and over a third of worldwide copper exports. The downturn in the copper cycle led to a significant fall in investments and demand for consumer durables which had a large-scale impact on French exports in 2014 (€667 million vs €760.4 million in 2013, a drop of 12.3%) and in 2015 (€656 million, down 1.6%).

On the other hand, France holds a very important position in the strategic sectors of energy and infrastructure. French operators cover the range of energy sources whose development is considered a priority by the Chilean Energy Agenda published in May 2014: Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) (Mejillones LNG terminal operated by ENGIE and the El Campesino power plant project in association with EDF) and renewables (Engie wind farm, Solairedirect portfolio of project investments, El Salvador Solar Park inaugurated by Total EN in January 2015, DCNS research centre on marine energy won following a call for tender at the end of 2015, EDF projects). At the end of 2014, Engie and EDF were awarded 60% of regulated capacity auctions.

Regarding infrastructure, French engineering continues to play an active part in developing the Santiago Metro (Colas Rail and SYSTRA), the financing of which is mainly structured by BNP Paribas. In February 2015, the concession to operate Santiago International Airport and build a second terminal was awarded to the ADPI-VINCI Airports consortium.

Chilean investment stock in France totals US$616 million. However, Luksic Group’s shareholding in the French company Nexans, through Invexans, alone totals US$487 million (in 2016). In 2015, Chilean conglomerate Sigdo Koppers, announced the takeover of Dijon’s Davey Bickford group, a world leader in detonators.

The Franco-Chilean Year of Innovation in 2017 is expected to showcase France and Chile’s shared priorities. It aims both to bring to light new projects and give increased visibility to exchanges which are testament to the intensity of bilateral relations. Six themes have been defined in collaboration with the Chilean party: astronomy and space, energy, smart cities, smart agriculture, ICTs and health.

Cultural, scientific and academic cooperation

France is present in Chile through its Institut français in Santiago and nine Alliances françaises (Antofagasta, La Serena, Viña del Mar, Chillán, Concepción, Valdivia, Osorno, Puerto Montt and Easter Island).

Its relationship with Chile is most vibrant and diversified in the cultural, scientific and academic fields.

In the academic field, there are now 12 specific agreements on higher education and research, which have helped start several bilateral programmes and develop institutional cooperation between the ministries of education and higher education of both countries. Almost 350 agreements have been signed between French and Chilean universities. France is the third-largest host country of Chilean students (there were 800 students in French institutions in 2015/16). In March 2014, the University of Technology of Compiègne (UTC) inaugurated a campus at the French Lycée in Viña del Mar, supported by Engie, which hosts a common core of Latin American and French engineering students. An agreement on mutual recognition of studies and diplomas, to pursue higher education in the partner country, was signed in June 2015 during Michelle Bachelet’s official visit to France.

In the field of vocational training, cooperation is strengthened through public-private partnerships: four training centres in automotive mechatronics created with Peugeot (2009), which recently formed a partnership with Total, as well as a training centre in civil and railway engineering with Colas-Rail (2015).

In the field of research, Chile focuses on creating centres of excellence and on industrial development, with universities as key players. By 2018, the government aims to increase resources allocated to research and innovation to 1.2% of GDP. The wealth of French-Chilean scientific cooperation is founded on long-standing ties and significant investment by major French research bodies such as the CNRS and INRIA. This cooperation is structured around ECOS, a Policy and scientific cooperation evaluation programme which provides funding for some 50 research projects each year. Since 1992, over 400 projects have been selected.

Scientific cooperation between Chile and France consists of several shared research units: a Joint International Unit (IMU) opened in September 2011 by the CNRS in the field of astronomy, in addition to the Mathematical Modelling Centre; four International Associated Laboratories (LIA) linked to the CNRS and two LIAs associated with the French Research Institute for Development (IRD). In August 2011, the Chilean Economic Development Agency (CORFO) within the Ministry of the Economy, selected INRIA’s project to create a centre of excellence in information technology (Communication and Information Research and Innovation Centre, CIRIC), with a budget of €30 million over ten years and geared towards research and technology transfer. INRIA has also signed an agreement with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), extending the existing cooperation on innovation for two years. In 2015, CORFO again selected a DCNS-led project to create a centre of excellence on marine renewable energy (MERIC).

France continues to have real influence in Chile, particularly in the fields of performing and visual arts, and is assisting the Chilean government as it considers creating a Ministry for Culture and Heritage (meeting in March 2016 between the two Culture Ministers).

The sharing of ideas, which mobilizes French expertise and intellectuals (Michel Foucault Chair, the d’Alembert Fund, Puerto de Ideas Foundation, etc.), is an essential component of our outreach in Chile.

A statement intent regarding women’s rights was signed during Ms Bachelet’s visit in 2015. This will enable French experience in this area to be shared with Chile.

Updated: 1 March 2017