With the exception of General de Gaulle’s visit during his tour to South America in 1964, no bilateral visits took place between France and Paraguay during the dictatorship of General Stroessner (1954-1989). Bilateral relations resumed at the highest level with the visit to Paris of President Wasmosy in April 1994 (the first visit by a Paraguayan Head of State to France, followed by another in December 1995).
The President of the French Republic visited Asunción in March 1997 and President Duarte Frutos visited France in 2006.
Since then, there have been regular contacts between the two countries and these have increased significantly since September 2015 :
- March 2009: Ms Anne-Marie Idrac, French Minister of State for Foreign Trade met with Mr Dionisio Borda, Paraguayan Minister of Finance, alongside the annual meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB);
- June 2009: visit to France by the Paraguayan Minister of National Defence, Luis Bareiro Spaini.
- September 2009: visit to France by Humberto Blasco, Paraguyan Minister of Justice, and Carlos Maria Aquino, Paraguayan Deputy Minister of Justice;
- October 2009: visit to France by Miguel Abdon Saguier, Chair of the Paraguayan Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, and by Luis Alberto Riart, Paraguayan Minister of Education, during a visit to UNESCO;
- February 2010: visit to France by Jorge Lara Castro, Paraguayan Deputy Minister of External Relations;
- September 2010: visit to Asunción by a delegation of the French Senate’s France-Southern Cone countries Friendship Group, led by the French Senate Quaestor Mr Jean-Marc Pastor.
- May 2011: the President of the French Senate’s France-Southern Cone countries Friendship Group, Mr Jean-Marc Pastor, visited Asunción on the occasion of the Paraguay Bicentennial celebrations.
- April 2013, May 2014, May 2015 and April 2016: visits to Asunción by Sergio Coronado, Deputy of the 2nd constituency for French nationals abroad.
- December 2013: first bilateral political consultations in Asunción at senior official level.
- 11 January 2015: during his visit to Paris, Mr Eladio Loizaga, Paraguayan Minister of External Relations, took part in the solidarity march on 11 January.
- 24-27 February 2015: visit to Asunción by Mr Jean-Pierre Bel, Personal Envoy of the President of the French Republic for Latin America and the Caribbean and former Speaker of the French Senate.
- 5-6 March 2015: visit to France by the Paraguayan Minister of External Relations and meeting with the French Foreign Minister.
- May 2015: visit to Asunción by two French Senators (and by the constituency’s Deputy).
- 30 November 2015: President Horacio Cartes of Paraguay gave the first national statement at the COP21 ceremony.
- 9-10 March 2016: visit to France by the Paraguayan Minister of External Relations and meeting with the French Foreign Minister.
- March 2016: the second bilateral consultations took place in Paris and were chaired on the French side by the French Foreign Ministry’s Director for the Americas and the Caribbean.
- April 2016: visit to Paraguay by the Senator for French nationals abroad, Olivier Cadic, to attend the Second Investment Forum Paraguay-Europa. Visit to Paraguay by a delegation of the French Senate’s France-Southern Cone countries Friendship Group, led by the Group’s President, Mr Simon Sutour, and creation by the Paraguayan Senate of a friendship group with France.
- 23-24 May 2016: visit to Paris by the Paraguayan Minister of Trade and Industry, who gave a talk on Paraguay at MEDEF International.
- early June 2016: visit by President Cartes to Paris to attend an international economic forum organized by the OECD; invitation by the French President to a reception at the Elysée Palace on 31 May as part of the Latin America and Caribbean Week in France.
Paraguay, which is France’s 16th-largest market in Latin America, remains a modest trading partner for France. However, our exports have increased sharply (they have more than doubled since 2010). In 2015, French exports reached €79 million and imports €70 million. France’s commercial presence focuses on the medicines and vaccines sector (Sanofi), perfumes and cosmetics (L’Oréal), the automotive industry (Renault, PSA, Michelin), agricultural machinery (Kuhn), agri-food and chemicals (Louis-Dreyfus, Roullier Group (fertilizers)), and the service sector (Oberthur Technologies, CMA-CGM (sea transport), and AXA Assistance insurance company). The Accord hotel chain has signed a franchise agreement to build a Hotel Ibis which opened in September 2010, while a second hotel should open in Ciudad del Este.
Cereals, in particular soya bean, and oilseeds became top Paraguayan exports to France. They were followed by spices, essential oils, sugar, yarns, and meat. The presence of French trademarks does not always appear in the trade balance, as certain products (vehicles) are assembled in or imported from Brazil or Argentina.
Finally, the Vatel group opened a hotel school in Asunción in March 2012 and is now established in the premises of the Alliance Française in Asunción.
French firms are showing a growing interest in the opportunities offered by Paraguay. The Paraguayn-French Chamber of Commerce (CCPF) was set up in 1984 and had 93 members in 2015 (10% increase).
Language and educational cooperation with Paraguay is being developed through the Carlos Antonio Lopez national scholarship programme launched in 2015. The programme aims to provide 1,500 scholarships enabling the best Paraguayan students to study at one of the top 350 universities in the world. French universities and student mobility operators are mobilized to welcome 87 Paraguayan government scholarship holders: 82 Master’s students for a two-year degree and five doctoral students for a four-year degree, at the start of the academic year 2016.
Language and educational cooperation relies locally on the Alliance Française teaching centre in Asunción (more than 830 students) and the Marcel Pagnol French International School (517 students, including over 180 French nationals). Both institutions have undergone significant modernization in recent years. The Molière Room at the Alliance Française, which was the only place of intellectual debate under the dictatorship, was renovated in 2010. The School, which had only 260 pupils in 2007, is developing a new construction project which could put the number of students at 700.
Our cultural cooperation, despite a modest budget, enjoys a high profile in Paraguay. For 17 years now, we have been organizing the country’s main Visual Arts Award (Matisse Prize) with the Gente de Arte Visual Arts Association. We maintain close cooperation with key cultural institutions and events: the International Film Festival, the International Harp Festival, the National Symphony Orchestra and the Museo del Barro. We now organize regular events (Francophonie Festival, Music Festival) and a number of exceptional events: opening of the Aimé Bonpland Museum in Santa Maria de Fé in 2015, creation of a festival of French film premieres in 2016, and cooperation with a ballet master from the Paris Opera in 2016.
In the field of scientific and technical cooperation, all French regional research networks, namely MATH-AmSud, STIC (ICT)-AmSud and AmSud-Pasteur are now established in Paraguay. A mobility scheme has been established between the Ecole Centrale de Paris (ECP) and the National University of Asunción (framework agreement signed at the end of July 2013), and a “Pierre and Marie Curie” Prize which has been awarded yearly since 2003 to Paraguayan high school science students. Finally, a mission conducted by AP-HP (Greater Paris University Hospitals) visited Paraguay in December 2014 to study the possibility of developing health cooperation.