France and Colombia

Presentation

  • French Ambassador to Colombia: Mr Gautier Mignot (since June 2017)
  • Colombian Ambassador to France: Mr Federico Renjifo Vélez (since November 2013)

Political relations

Relations between France and Colombia have grown considerably stronger. A few months after being sworn in, President Juan Manual Santos visited Paris in January 2011. Re-elected in June 2014, Mr Santos again paid an official visit to France on 26 and 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. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Jean-Marc Ayrault, travelled to Bogota and Medellín in December 2016 to launch the 2017 France-Colombia Year. On 22-24 January 2017, François Hollande made an official visit to Colombia.

Economic relations

http://www.tresor.economie.gouv.fr/Pays/colombie (in French)

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). In 2016, the almost total collapse of our plane deliveries was combined with a drop in our non-aeronautical exports, against a backdrop of heavily restricted Colombian imports, leading to the lowest level of French exports in six years, and a bilateral trade balance which was nearly halved.

In 2016, French exports to Colombia were worth €629.7 million (down 25% on 2015, i.e. the worst performance since 2010 (€589 million)). Our imports from Colombia were €378 million (down 0.4%), which was in line with the drop in imports to France from around the world. The contrasting trends in our bilateral trade has led to a major drop in our trade surplus, which is now only at €251 million (compared to €459 million in 2015 and €619 million in 2014). Colombia thus now represents only our 35th largest trade surplus worldwide (20th in 2014, 28th in 2015). This is now the 5th largest surplus on the continent, slightly overtaken by Panama, and behind Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Basically, our bilateral balance is the accumulation of a heavy deficit in agricultural and agrifood products (down €85 million, which leaves much room for improvement for a major agri-food power like France), and a more “ordinary” deficit in hydrocarbons (down €166 million), with both these balances offset by the surplus in capital goods of about €500 million. Furthermore, once again this year we can see that the French Customs statistics are starting to show, in both directions, the benefits of the EU-Colombia Free Trade Agreement which came into force in summer 2013 (e.g. for our milk and cheese products, once again up, by 58.2%, following a 118% rise in 2015). Globally, Colombia is France’s 63rd-largest customer, positioned between Cameroon and Pakistan, having slipped seven places in 2016, after sliding four places in 2015. Although Latin America was not a successful region for our exports in 2016 (down 4%), Colombia saw the biggest fall among the larger markets in the region. While Colombia ranked third in the region for French exports in 2014 (behind Brazil and Mexico), and 4th in 2015 (behind Argentina), it fell again in 2016, lagging well behind Chile (€710 million, up 8.3%). It remains, however, our main market within Andean countries (excluding Chile), ahead of Peru (€318 million) and Venezuela (€214 million).

The drop in our exports of about €210 million appears to be mainly down to the 61.7% fall in our aviation exports, with the private company Avianca, which is the Airbus’s 6th-largest customer, having negotiated staggered deliveries due to financial difficulties. Aviation exports were thus limited to €110 million, compared to €288 million in 2015 and €562 million in 2013. The share of aircraft in our exports therefore only accounts for 17.55% of the total, compared to 47.5% two years previously. However, our non-aviation exports are hardly exceptional either, having dropped by 5.7% to €519 million, in the wake of a sharp contraction in Colombian imports (down 17%). It can be observed, however, that this overall poor performance conceals differentiated sectoral trends: agrifood rose significantly (up 20.3% to €27.7 million), as did agricultural products, in volumes which nevertheless remain small (up 161.1% to €6.6 million). On the other hand, all capital goods have shown a sharp fall: transport equipment of course (down 47.3% to €198.4 million), but also industrial products (down 10.2% to €273 million) and mechanical, electrical, electronic and IT equipment (down 7% to €116.6 million).

In the product breakdown, exactly like in 2015, 73 categories have recorded over €1 million in exports towards Colombia, including 13 which are each over €10 million. After aircraft, which remain our leading export product at €110.5 million, our four main exports are: pharmaceutical preparations (down 14.8% to €85.4 million), parts and accessories for cars (down 5.5% to €43.5), cars (up 3.1% to €36.8 million, with Renault, for the second consecutive year, gaining market share: 2.8%, after 2% in 2015) and finally other basic organic chemicals, up 5.5% to €20.3 million.

For the second consecutive year, Colombian exports to France, expressed in dollars, fell sharply (down 13%, after a 34.9% drop in 2015), with hydrocarbons and other extractive industry products contributing 11.7% to the drop. Colombia’s market share in France remains completely unchanged from 2015, i.e. 0.075%. Colombia has even moved up two places in our supplier rankings, to 72nd, behind New Zealand and, like in 2015, just ahead of Ecuador (€370.9 million). It thus remains our 6th-largest Latin American supplier, behind our first four export clients, but also, for the second year running, behind Peru (€445 million, whose exports to France are again up, by 3.2%). Colombian exports to France mainly comprise natural hydrocarbons and other extractive industry products, for 44.3% of the total (€167.7 million), down 5.1%, agricultural and fishing products (23.8% of the total, stable at €90 million) and other industrial products (€82.6 million, or 21.8% of the total, a slight fall of 1.7%).

In the breakdown by product, 21 categories (22 in 2015) exceed €1 million among French imports from Colombia, five of which are each over €10 million: coal (42.2% of the total, i.e. €160 million, up 6.6%), tropical and subtropical fruit (slightly down by 0.7% to €49.2 million, i.e. 13% of the total), jewellery (10.4%, up 9.6% to €39.3 million), beverage crops (7.3%, up 0.5% to €27.6 million) and finally cement (6.36% of the total of €24.1 million, down 5.9%). On a side note, crude oil exports from Colombia to France have collapsed, down 71% to €7.7 million.

Development aid

Since the end of 2009, the French Development Agency (AFD)’s activities in Colombia have been conducted under a mandate designed for an emerging country, by 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 US$300 million, signed in June 2015 during the French Prime Minister’s visit to Colombia. The cumulative total of AFD loans for Colombia since 2009 stands at $2 billion of commitments, including $811 million for operations contributing directly to the post-conflict period. These loans primarily concern rural development and land governance and registry.

France is completing its participation via the European Union budget in the €95 million trust fund for Colombia (launched in December 2016) via a direct bilateral contribution of €3 million.

http://www.afd.fr/home/pays/amerique-latine-et-caraibes/alc/colombie/projets-colombie (in French)

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

The inauguration of the French season in Colombia, for six months starting from the second half of December 2016, is a key moment in the bilateral partnership. This event is followed 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 4,000 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 and the agreement on mutual recognition of diplomas and study periods signed in 2011 encourage student mobility and closer ties in the area of scientific research. With more than 24,000 students in 2015 and a network of 12 branches, the Alliance Française network in Colombia is one of the world’s largest. 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 have been launched since 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: 6 June 2017

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