Presentation

Political relations

France and Kuwait have a long-standing, confident bilateral relationship. Kuwait is open to diversified relations, including with the other permanent members of the Security Council and with emerging powers.

A strong memory remains of France’s contribution to liberating Kuwait in 1991, and its firmness on Iraq’s implementing Kuwait-related UN resolutions (acknowledgment of the border, payment of compensation, return of archives and remains of Kuwaiti soldiers) is appreciated.

Visits

Visits to France

  • September 2012: Prime Minister, Sheikh Jaber Al-Sheikh Sabah.
  • November 2012: Minister of Communication and Transport, Mr Mutiab Ahmad al Ozeina.
  • November 2013: Minister of Education and Higher Education, Dr Falah Al-Hajraf
  • January 2014: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sheikh Sabah.
  • January 2014: Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Marzouq Ali al-Ghanim.
  • February 2014: Managing Director of the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), Mr Bader Mohammad Al Saad.
  • February 2014: Minister of Finance, Mr Anas Khalid Al Saleh.
  • September 2014: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sheikh Sabah.
  • May 2015: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sheikh Sabah.
  • June 2015: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sheikh Sabah.
  • October 2015: Prime Minister, Sheikh Jaber Al-Sheikh Sabah.
  • October 2016: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sheikh Sabah.

Visits to Kuwait

  • March 2012: Minister for Industry, Energy and the Digital Economy, Mr Éric Besson.
  • March 2013: Minister of Foreign Trade, Ms Nicole Bricq.
  • April 2013: Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Guillaud.
  • May 2014: Minister Delegate for Veterans, Mr Kader Arif.
  • January 2015: Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Mr Laurent Fabius.
  • March 2015: Minister of State for Development and Francophonie, Ms Annick Girardin.
  • June 2015: Minister of Defence, Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian.
  • August 2016: Minister of Defence, Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Economic relations

The total value of trade was down in 2016 (-56%), falling from €1.71 billion in 2015 to €756.93 million. Although France had a trade surplus with Kuwait in 2015 (€512.89 million), it had a negative trade balance in 2016 (€9.8 million).

The change is explained by a sharp fall in French exports to Kuwait in 2016. Exports were boosted in 2015 by a €1.3 billion contract signed by Airbus in 2013, which was paid in two instalments: one in 2013 and the other in 2015. Excluding aircraft and space vehicles, French exports (cosmetics, chemicals, textiles, agrifood and IT products fell only 7.8% between 2015 and 2016.

Imports from Kuwait are also down, impacted by the collapse in world crude oil prices as they are made up of 97% hydrocarbon products. Having recovered clearly in 2012 (+331%) and in 2013 (+49%), Kuwait’s imports totalled €383.39 million in 2016, compared to €600.6 million in 2015 – a fall of 36% year-on-year.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

France-Kuwait cooperation is carried out in the framework of a cultural, scientific and technical cooperation agreement based on a bilateral agreement signed in Paris on 18 September 1969, supplemented by an archaeological cooperation agreement signed on 1 March 1983 and a Protocol for cooperation in the health field, signed in 2006. Like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman, Kuwait enjoys preferential conditions for the training in France of its specialist doctors.

France has a special place in Kuwait and represents a doorway to Europe, with a positive image in the country as regards culture, education and academia. Following the signing of a letter of intent to strengthen cooperation on the French language on 27 January 2015 by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, French was introduced experimentally in several primary schools from the 2015 intake.

The French Lycée in Kuwait is under contract with the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE) and has a special status in that it has a private Kuwaiti owner. It has more than 1,300 students, including 15% French, 12% Kuwaitis and 73% other nationalities. 50% of its Kuwaiti students go on to study in France.
The Institut français (French Institute) in Kuwait was created in 2012 and ties together the whole cultural network, built on the merging of the Institut Voltaire (language centre) and the Cercle Francophone (Francophone Circle) of Kuwait, which held more than 20,000 works.

France-Kuwait academic cooperation is developing in a context where the model of the English-speaking world is dominant. The scientific education sector, and particularly engineering and business schools, are the main centres of interest for Kuwaiti students. About 100 students are enrolled in French higher education institutions, making France the tenth most-popular destination for Kuwaiti students. Moreover, the creation of a French department at Kuwait University has given French a lasting place in the country’s academic landscape.

In the field of medical training, an agreement signed in 2006 allows a contingent of ten Kuwaiti doctors per year to undertake specialized training in France, in identical conditions to those of French medical interns.

Several French bodies, including the Office for Geological and Mining Research (BRGM), IFP Energies nouvelles, and the Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER), develop cooperation actions in partnership with the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), which is chaired by the Minister of Education and Higher Education.

France has been active in the archaeology field since 1983. Excavation projects focus on the Failaka Island, which is home to a Hellenistic fortress and a Nestorian Christian church. The French team of experts is currently the largest of the foreign contingents in Kuwait. This team has an interesting composition, and involves the IFPO (French Institute for the Near East), Kuwait National Council for Culture, Art and Letters (NCCAL), and Total (which funds researcher travel to the tune of €20,000). The production of the first Franco-Kuwaiti documentary showcasing the historical heritage of Failaka was planned in 2015.

Defence relations

France and Kuwait are bound by a defence agreement from 1992, the first signed by France in the Gulf region, which was renewed in 2009. Our military presence in the Gulf and our participation in efforts to combat Daesh (a French detachment is hosted by Army Forces Central Command-Kuwait in Kuwait) have enhanced our image as a major player in the region.

Updated: Updated: 2 May 2017

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