France and Colombia


  • French Ambassador to Colombia: Jean-Marc Laforêt (since October 2013)
  • Colombian Ambassador to France: Federico Renjifo Vélez (since November 2013)

Political relations

Relations between France and Colombia have improved considerably. A few months after being sworn in, President Juan Manual Santos visited Paris in January 2011. Mr Santos was re-elected in June 2014 and paid a further official visit to France on 26-27 January 2015. The meeting between the two Presidents was an opportunity to announce the organization of reciprocal cultural seasons (French Season in Colombia from December 2016, then the Colombian Season in France in the second half of 2017) and to launch a France-Colombia Strategic Committee made up of leading French and Colombian figures from various spheres (business, culture, academia, civil society) with the aim of strengthening our bilateral relationship. Mr Santos was previously received in Paris by the French President, François Hollande, on 7 November 2014 for a working lunch on the peace process in Colombia. Further to the official visit of President Santos to Paris, the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, visited Bogota on 25 June 2015. During the visit, 17 bilateral agreements were signed (tax agreement; €275 million “climate loan" from the Agence française de développement (French Development Agency, AFD); academic agreements, such as on the creation of an international observatory on ending violence; decentralized cooperation; working holiday agreement, etc.).

Ms Annick Girardin, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie, visited Medellín in October 2015 (inauguration of the French lycée, meeting with the French community, etc.) and her Colombian counterpart, Ms Patti Londoño, was received for several high-level meetings in Paris in February 2016 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Agrifood and Forestry, Institut français – French Institute). Her successor, Mr André Vallini, visited Cartagena to represent France during the official signing ceremony of the peace agreement on 26 September 2016.

Economic relations

France has posted a trade surplus since 2006 that is fluctuating according to deliveries of aeronautical supplies to Avianca by Airbus and the Toulouse-based aircraft manufacturer ATR. Trade between France and Colombia tripled between 2004 (€490 million) and 2013 (€1.582 billion). French exports stood at €841 million (-14.4% compared to 2014) and our imports from Colombia at €380 million (+4.6%), generating a surplus of €461 million for France (compared to €619 million in 2014 and €525 million in 2013). That is France’s fourth-largest surplus on the continent (behind those with Brazil, Mexico and Argentina), and the 28ᵗʰ-largest worldwide (20ᵗʰ in 2014).

Although 2015 saw an order from the Colombian national carrier, Avianca, for 100 Airbus A320 neo ($10.6 billion), the drop of €141 million in our exports is linked to the fall in our aircraft exports (down €178 million) which continued, however, to represent 34.3% of total exports (€288 million), as against 47.5% in 2014. French non-aviation exports have grown 7.13%. This growth does not extend to all major export sectors: agrifood products have fallen sharply (-15.6% to €23 million), as have agricultural products, exports of which have collapsed (-67.4%) to volumes that are now frankly anecdotic (€2.5 million in 2015).

Colombia is France’s 56ᵗʰ-largest global customer, having fallen back four places compared to 2014. As the performance of our exports to Latin America in general has been considerably more favourable (+11.8%), Colombia has thus fallen into fourth place, behind Brazil (€4.8 billion, +11.7%), Mexico (€3.2 billion, +26.7%) and Argentina (€1.29 billion, +44.7%). It does, however, remain our leading outlet in the Andean countries (excluding Chile), with our exports to Colombia representing more than the total of the four others put together: Venezuela (€280 million), Peru (€250 million), Ecuador (€145 million) and Bolivia (€55 million).

Our main exports include pharmaceutical preparations (€100 million, +11.7%), automobile parts and accessories (linked to the industrial presence of Renault in Antioquia; €46 million, +4.3%), automobiles (€35.7 million, +31.8%) and, lastly, lifting and handling equipment (€19.6 million, +145%).

According to the Colombian National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), Colombia’s exports fell by 34.9% in dollar terms in 2015, with hydrocarbons making up 31.3 of these percentage points. In this context, the French marked was one of the few reasons for satisfaction for Colombia’s exporters in 2015: our imports from Colombia grew by 4.6% to total €380 million – a pace faster than that of the France’s overall imports (0.8%). Colombia remains our 74ᵗʰ-largest supplier, behind Serbia and just ahead of Ecuador. It is, however, only our sixth-largest Latin American supplier as of 2015, behind our leading export customers, Chile (1.03 billion) and Peru (€430 million, after a rise of 32.1% that pushes it ahead of Colombia in our ranking of suppliers).

Colombia’s exports to France are mostly made up of natural hydrocarbons and other extractive industries products, accounting for 46.5% of our total imports.

Six import sectors each account for more than €10 million: black coal (€150.3 million, 39.5% share, -2.2%), tropical and subtropical fruits (€49.5 million after a significant rise of +45.3%, share of 13%), jewellery (€37.8 million, +27.8%, 9.42% share), plants for drink production (€27.5 million, -7.4%, share of 7.23%), crude oil (€26.6 million, -36.6%, share of 7%) and cement (€25.6 million, +36%, share of 6.73%).

In terms of foreign direct investment (FDI), France is one of Colombia’s leading five investors, with at least 156 French subsidiaries in the country. France is also the top foreign employer in Colombia, accounting for more than 100,000 direct jobs. Since the end of 2009, the Agence française de développement (French Development Agency, AFD)’s activities in Colombia have been conducted under a mandate designed for an emerging country, supporting “green and inclusive growth”. The AFD’s Bogota office has developed an intervention strategy for the period 2014-2018 setting out three thematic objectives: (i) fostering convergence and sustainable regional development, (ii) promoting climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, and (iii) supporting social cohesion policies, including reduction of inequalities. The strategy also specifies two cross-cutting objectives: contributing to economic diplomacy and French climate commitments. The AFD loans included initial financing of $300 million, signed at the end of June 2015 during the French Prime Minister’s visit to Colombia. The cumulative total of AFD loans for Colombia since 2009 stands at $1.8 billion of commitments, of which $811 million for operations contributing directly to the post-conflict period. These loans primarily concern rural development and land governance and registry. Another AFD loan of €200 million in 2017 is being considered, concerning the issue of “the post-conflict period and rural development”.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

The inauguration of the French season in Colombia, for six months starting from the second half of December 2016, marks a key moment in the bilateral partnership. This event follows by the Colombian season in France in the second half of 2017.

Colombia has long-standing, intense relations with France, particularly as regards research and student mobility. France is the third-largest destination for Colombian students after the United States and Spain, with nearly 3,700 students enrolled in higher education institutions in 2015-2016. Colombia has the second-largest contingent of Latin American students in France, behind Brazil. Many university agreements (400 identified), and the agreement on mutual recognition of diplomas and study periods signed in 2011, encourage student mobility and ties in the area of scientific research. With more than 24,000 students in 2015 and a network of 12 branches, the Alliance Française of Colombia is a world leader in teaching French. In the cultural field, Colombia films are often screened in French film festivals dedicated to Latin America, held in Biarritz, Nantes and Amiens.

At institutional level, France provides significant technical cooperation in combating drug trafficking, particularly through the Ministry of the Interior and the Interministerial Drug Control Training Centre (CIFAD).

In the context of the peace process, France, which has been providing financial support since the end of 2012 for the organizations involved in resolving the conflict, including the Colombian National Centre for Historical Memory, the Colombian Education and Agriculture Ministries, the Peace Process Support Mission (Misión de Apoyo al Proceso de Paz – MAPP/OEA) and the UNHCR, actively encourages the implementation of the Victims and Land Restitution Law. New projects were launched in 2015 with our Colombian partners in the fields of land governance (land occupancy), agricultural training and transitional justice.

The Franco-German “Antonio Nariño Human Rights Prize”, which was created in 2010, is awarded each year to activists and NGOs active in the defence of human rights.

The French Global Environment Facility (FFEM) is developing cooperation in ecotourism, crafts and carbon credit implementation.

Updated: 7 November 2016