France and Laos

Presentation

Political relations

The historical ties between France and Laos make the two countries special partners. France supports the country in its development through support for urban and rural development, the health sector and preservation of heritage. France, along with Germany and, since 2012, the United Kingdom, has one of the only three European diplomatic representations in Vientiane.

Visits

Visits from France:

  • The Minister Delegate for Francophonie, Yamina Benguigui, visited Laos on 16 and 17 October 2013.
  • The former 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.

Visits from Laos:

  • The Vice Minister of Planning and Investment, Kamlien Pholsena, visited France in March 2017 and met with Matthias Fekl, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad.
  • The Minister of Justice, Bounkeut Sangsomack, visited France in February 2016.
  • The Deputy Prime Minister, Somsavat Lengsavad, visited Paris in November 2014 and was received by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • The President of Laos, Choummaly Sayasone, made an official visit to France from 21 to 25 October 2013.

Economic relations

France is the leading Western investor in Laos. Several of our major companies have successfully started doing business in Laos, including EDF, Essilor, BRED Banque Populaire and Bureau Veritas. Many small- and medium-sized enterprises have been created by French entrepreneurs in Laos mainly in the service industry (hotels, tourism, restaurants, insurance, engineering, architecture). In the industrial sector, French companies are mostly present in aviation, textiles, crafts and construction.

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 our two countries stood at €29 million in 2015 falling considerably with respect to 2014 (€62 million). 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 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 shirts, pullovers and jackets) have been drivers of exports from Laos to Europe since the Everything but Arms (EBA) arrangement has been implemented, and for the last decade have been the main imports by France (95% on average).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

France and Laos’ bilateral cooperation is concentrated in the sectors of health, agriculture and urban development through projects mainly conducted by the Agence Française de Développement (French Development Agency, AFD). The AFD has committed more than €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 and focuses its projects on the agriculture and rural development sector.

France’s cooperation network in Laos is dense, with an Institut Français, a French school (Lycée Josué Hoffet), a Pasteur Institute, a French School of Asian Studies (EFEO) centre, a French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) centre, and a Mérieux Institute. Decentralized cooperation is particularly strong in Laos, especially in Luang Prabang in the restoration of cultural heritage and urban planning (French city of Chinon and region Centre-Val-de-Loire in collaboration with AFD), in the province of Khammouane (Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region) and in Vientiane (Île-de-France public water supply service and the city of Cannes). Many French NGOs with public funding are active in the health and local development sectors.

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Updated: 26.05.17

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