France and Costa Rica

Political relations

France and Costa Rica have traditionally enjoyed good relations, thanks to our converging views on many multilateral issues, including environmental protection, combating climate change, combating terrorism and corruption, and human rights. Our political dialogue is currently focused on two crucial areas: human rights and combating climate change.

Our relations have strengthened since 2013, with trips made by senior civil servants and high-level bilateral meetings:

• Meeting on 6 October 2014 in Paris between the Minister of Foreign Relations and Religion, Mr Manuel González Sanz, and Mr Laurent Fabius;
• Participation of President Solis in the 2015 Latin America and Caribbean Week as a guest of honour at the OECD International Economic Forum on Latin America and the Caribbean on 5 June 2015 in Paris. On the same day, President Solis was also received by the President of the French Republic for a bilateral meeting, which concluded with the signing of three statements of intent in the fields of tourism, French language teaching, and training and innovation cooperation;

• Meeting on 4 November 2015 in Paris between the Minister of Education, Ms Sonia Mora Escalantes, and Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.
• Visit to Costa Rica on 11-13 January 2017 by the President of the French Republic’s personal envoy for Latin American and Caribbean, Mr Jean-Pierre Bel, during which he met with President Solís.

Bilateral consultations between the French and Costa Rican Ministries of Foreign Affairs were held on 8 April 2016.

Economic relations

Trade between France and Costa Rica reached €283 million in 2015 (€266 million in 2014). In 2015, France’s trade deficit with Costa Rica grew to -€175 million (+31%), due to the rise in our imports (+23% to €229 million), and in spite of the growth in our exports (+27% to €54 million). France is Costa Rica’s fifth-largest European supplier after Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.
France’s presence in the country is relatively small and primarily industrial. Nevertheless, our companies are well-represented: Total (the largest French investor), Schneider Electric (electric power distribution, industrial automation and building controls), Legrand (electrical equipment) and Engie. Costa Rica’s need to diversify its energy sources (to include geothermal and wind energy) and its major development projects (transport infrastructure, introduction of electric vehicles) are a source of opportunities for our businesses.

Over 55,000 French tourists visited Costa Rica in 2015 (up 40% in four years), which sees France rank third, just behind Spain and Germany, in terms of tourist numbers from European countries to Costa Rica. This trend should increase with Air France’s introduction of a direct flight from Paris to San José in November 2016. These biweekly flights will take place from November to April, during the peak tourist season in Costa Rica.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Costa Rica is home to the Institut Français of Central America (IFAC), providing a base for French cooperation in the region. It is also the last Latin American country where French remains compulsory in the education system. Our cooperation includes training the thousand or so French teachers working in the primary, secondary and higher education systems. French cultural cooperation is supported by a network made up of a particularly active Alliance Française branch (2,500 students) and the Franco-Costa Rican Lycée (900 students).
Academic cooperation, which is a highlight of our relations with Costa Rica, led to the opening of the Jacques-Yves Cousteau Observatory for seas and coastal areas in Central America (OCAC) in 2011 and the creation, the same year, of the UNESCO-Cousteau Chair at the University of Costa Rica.

There are currently around twenty university partnerships. Based at the University of Costa Rica, the Central America unit of the French academic network Institut des Amériques helps to develop academic exchanges through conferences and reciprocal hosting of guest professors. Academic cooperation with Costa Rica is also supported by the France-Latin America and the Caribbean regional programme “PREFALC”, which aims to facilitate the creation of Masters programmes (eight projects since 2002 with Costa Rican universities).
Since the National University of Costa Rica became the first Central American member of the French-speaking academic network Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), new cooperation opportunities have opened up.

An agreement on mutual recognition of qualifications and periods of higher education study between conferences of French establishments (CPU, CDEFI) and Costa Rican ones (CONARE) was concluded on 10 November 2015 during the visit to Paris of the Costa Rican Minister for Education and the Chair of CONARE.
In comparative terms, France is the fifth most popular host country, after the United States, Spain, Cuba and Germany (source: UNESCO 2014). The number of Costa Rican students at French higher education establishments has risen slightly in recent years: in 2015-2016, France hosted 158 Costa Rican students (compared with 130 in 2013-2014), of whom one third were doing a bachelor’s degree, one third were Masters students and one third were doctoral students. French higher education opportunities are promoted by the Campus France regional office in San José. (in French)

Updated: 17 January 2017