The historical ties between France and Laos make the two countries special partners. The French President made an official visit to Laos in November 2012, during the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit. The President of Laos made an official visit to France from 21-25 October 2013.
France, as a long-standing partner of Laos, supports the country in its development through support for urban and rural development, the health sector and preservation of heritage.
The European Union also has regular dialogue with Laos on human rights and governance. The most recent edition of this dialogue took place in May 2014. France, along with Germany and, since 2012, the United Kingdom, has one of the only three European diplomatic representations in Vientiane. The EU is, moreover, the fourth-largest trading partner of Laos (behind Thailand, China and Vietnam) and their trade represented €406 million in 2014.
The European Commission has planned to dedicate €207 million to Laos over the period 2014-2020 under the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), of which €60 million for the period 2014-2015. The main sectors for cooperation are education (45-50% of the DCI budget allotted to Laos), sustainable agriculture and food security (45-50% of the budget), and governance and human rights (5-10%).
Visits from France
- The Minister Delegate for Francophonie, Ms Yamina Benguigui, visited Laos on 16-17 October 2013.
- The President of the Republic, François Hollande, made a visit to Laos on 5 November 2012 for the 9ᵗʰ ASEM Summit in Vientiane. On that occasion, he met with his counterpart, Mr Choummaly Sayasone, accompanied by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Laurent Fabius.
Visits from Laos
- The Minister of Justice, Mr Bounkeut Sangsomack, visited France from 1-5 February 2016
- The Vice-Prime Minister, Mr Somsavat Lengsavad, visited Paris in November 2014 and was received by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Laurent Fabius.
- The President of Laos, Mr Choummaly Sayasone, made an official visit to France from 21-25 October 2013, accompanied by the Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister to the Presidency responsible for Francophonie, the Minister for Planning and Investment, and the Vice-Ministers of Education and Justice.
- The Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Laos, Mr Thongloun Sisoulith, visited Paris on 5 June 2013, where he met with his counterpart, Mr Laurent Fabius,
- The Minister of Transport, Mr Sommad Pholsena, visited France for the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget in June 2013.
- The Minister of Health, Mr Eksavang Vongvichit, made a fact-finding visit to France in May 2013.
- The Vice-Prime Minister responsibility for economic issues, Mr Somsavat Lengsavad, visited France in April 2013.
- The Vice-Minister of Justice, Mr Ket Kiettisack, made a fact-finding visit to France in April 2013, as part of our cooperation supporting the drafting of the country’s intercountry adoption law.
- The Vice-Minister of Education, Mr Lytou Bouapao, visited Paris in April 2013.
France is the leading Western investor in Laos. Several of our major companies have established there successfully, including EDF, Essilor, BRED Banque Populaire and Bureau Veritas, as well as many small- and medium-sized enterprises created by French entrepreneurs in Laos. These SMEs mostly operate in the services sector: hospitality, tourism, catering, insurance, consultancy (IT and engineering) and architecture. In the industrial sector, French companies are mostly present in aviation, textiles, crafts and construction, while in agriculture, investments primarily concern the cultivation of coffee, flowers and fruit, as well as aromatic raw materials.
Although its neighbours represent 90% of Laos’ trade, France is its 9ᵗʰ-largest trading partner and leading European supplier. Our market share, however, is only 0.2%. Trade between France and Laos grew from €51 million in 2003 to €62.6 million in 2014, but slumped in 2015 to €29 million.
Between 2003 and 2014, French exports to Laos grew markedly, from €8 million to €45.5 million. This rise is not the result of structural consolidation, but rather to an exceptional intensification linked to recent aircraft purchases by the national carrier, Lao Airlines. The latter has been in a phase of rapid modernization of its fleet for the last decade, responding to the dual needs of regional integration and better coverage of its territory. Since 2009, Lao Airlines has thus acquired eight ATR aircraft (four 72-500 and four 72-600), and four Airbus A320. While the sale of transport equipment represented almost 80% of our exports over the last eight years, the lack of aircraft deliveries in 2015 resulted in a slump in our total exports (€10.6 million in 2015) and a trade deficit with vis-à-vis Laos of €7.8 million in 2015. Our largest export sector in 2015 concerned agrifood products (28%), followed by mechanical, electrical and electronic equipment (24%) and transport equipment (14%).
Textiles (t-shirts, polo shifts, pullovers and jackets) and leather goods have been drivers of exports from Laos to Europe since the establishment of the Everything but Arms (EBA) programme, and for the last decade have made up the majority of French imports from the country (57% in 2014 and 45.5% in 2015). Our second-largest import sector is that of agricultural products (45.8%), of which tea and coffee make up 23% of our imports.
France’s cooperation programmes in Laos converge with the priorities of the country’s eighth National Socio-Economic Development Plan 2016-2020, and with its National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy (NGPES). Since 2012, the preparation of the cooperation has been carried out jointly with the EU delegation and other Member States active in Laos. For the period 2014-2020, the European Commission plans to allot €207 million to Laos, primarily in the education sector, agriculture and food security, and governance and human rights.
France’s bilateral cooperation in Laos focuses on three sectors: health, agriculture and urban development, as part of products led primarily by the Agence française de développement (AFD, French Development Agency). The AFD has committed €150 million (including €120 million in the form of grants and a loan of €30 million to fund the Nam Theun Hydroelectric Project) in Laos since 1994. The AFD focuses its projects on agriculture and rural development, such as through a programme for the development of the mountainous northern regions (€15 million), a project for heritage restoration and urban development in Luang Prabang (€2 million) and through two coffee sector development projects (€2.7 million in total).
The French Embassy’s Cooperation and Cultural Action Service carries out projects in the areas of francophonie and culture, governance, higher education and research, and heritage. France’s cooperation network in Laos is dense, with an Institut français (French Institute), a French school (Lycée Josué Hoffet), a Pasteur Institute, a French School of East Asian Studies (EFEO) centre, a French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) centre, and a Mérieux Institute.
Decentralized cooperation is particularly dynamic in Laos, especially in Luang Prabang (French city of Chinon and region Centre-Val-de-Loire), in the province of Khammouane (region Rhône-Alpes) and in Vientiane (Île-de-France public water supply service (SEDIF) and the city of Cannes). Many French NGOs with public funding are active in the health and local development sectors.
- Website of the French Embassy in Laos
- Website of the Institut français (French Institute) in Laos
- Website of the Agence française de développement (French Development Agency, AFD)
Updated: 10 May 2016
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