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France and United Arab Emirates

Presentation

Political relations

Consultations regularly take place at the highest level, and the strategic dialogue established in 2012 helps drive forward the bilateral relationship. The UAE Crown Prince has met the President of the French Republic on four occasions (11 July 2012, 15 January 2013, 16 January 2014 and 10 February 2015. The two Ministers of Foreign Affairs meet regularly, either bilaterally or on the sidelines of international conferences. Regular French ministerial visits to the United Arab Emirates help maintain intense, high-level political dialogue. The Secretary-General of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Mr Christian Masset, is the personal representative of the President of the French Republic for the strategic dialogue, which is a tool for high-level coordination of our bilateral relationship and is held twice annually. The seventh session took place in Abu Dhabi on 13 January 2016. Ms Anne-Marie Idrac has been the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development’s special representative for economic exchanges with the UAE since 29 September 2014.

Visits

since June 2014

  • 15 September 2014, Abu Dhabi: Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence.
  • 15 September 2014, Paris: Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (participation in the Paris International Conference on Peace and Security in Iraq).
  • 29 September-2 October 2014, Abu Dhabi, Dubai: Ms Anne-Marie Idrac, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development’s special representative for economic exchanges with the UAE.
  • 13 October 2014, Paris: Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
  • 3-4 November 2014, Abu Dhabi: General de Villiers, Chief of Defence Staff.
  • 4-5 November 2014, Abu Dhabi: Ms Fleur Pellerin, Minister of Culture and Communication
  • 10-11 November 2014, Abu Dhabi, Dubai: Mr Christian Masset, Secretary-General of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development.
  • 10-11 November 2014, Abu Dhabi, Dubai: Ms Anne-Marie Idrac, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development’s special representative.
  • 14-17 November 2014, Paris: Mr Faris Al Mazrouei, Assistant Foreign Minister for Security and Military Affairs.
  • 16 December 2014, Abu Dhabi: Mr Christian Masset, Secretary-General of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development.
  • 20 January 2015, Abu Dhabi: Ms Ségolène Royal, French Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy.
  • 21 January 2015, Abu Dhabi: Ms Anne-Marie Idrac, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development’s special representative.
  • 10 February 2015, Paris: Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Advisor and Vice Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior.
  • 20 April 2015, Dubai: Ms Anne-Marie Idrac, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development’s special representative.
  • 20 April 2015, Dubai: Mr Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the President of the French Republic for the Protection of the Planet.
  • 27 May 2015, Lyon: Mr Khaldoon Al Mubarak, special representative of the Crown Prince for the Strategic Dialogue.
  • 2-3 June 2015, Paris: Dr Mr Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
  • 29 September 2015, Abu Dhabi, Dubai: Ms Anne-Marie Idrac, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development’s special representative.
  • 14 December 2015, Paris: Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
  • 13 January 2016, Abu Dhabi: Mr Christian Masset, Secretary-General of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development.
  • 18-19 January 2016, Abu Dhabi, Dubai: Mr Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development
  • 19 January 2016, Abu Dhabi: Ms Annick Girardin, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie.
  • 21 March 2016, Dubai: Mr André Vallini, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie.

Economic relations

The UAE remains France’s leading export destination in the Gulf, accounting for €3.8 billion of French exports. It represented our fourth-largest trade surplus globally in 2015.

The volume of bilateral trade totalled €4.93 billion in 2014, down 6.5% compared to the record year 2013 (€5.27 billion), and 4.6% compared to the previous year. These figures make the UAE our second-largest trade partner in the Gulf, behind Saudi Arabia (€8.4 billion).

French exports to the UAE fell 6.3% in 2015, to €3.8 billion. This follows a year 2013 in which our exports rose 12.2%, and a year 2014 marked by a rise of 2%.

The Emirates absorbed 30.7% of our sales in the Gulf in 2015 (37.7% in 2014), confirming its position as our leading export destination in the Gulf, ahead of Saudi Arabia (€3.1 billion) although the gap is generally reducing between the two countries.

France’s structural trade surplus is reducing, because of the combination of a slight drop in French exports and the increasing cost of imports from the UAE (+2%). It totalled €2.75 billion (-9.3% year-on-year) in 2015, representing our fourth-largest global surplus behind the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore – one place lower than in 2014. In 2015, the UAE was our 21ˢᵗ-largest customer, ahead of traditional partners such as Portugal and Morocco, and our 47ᵗʰ-largest supplier (compared to 20ᵗʰ and 47ᵗʰ respectively in 2014).

Diversified, balanced exports, whereas imports are dominated by hydrocarbons

Exports: The main items in 2015 are essentially identical to those in previous years, and show that business flow is sustained, intense and diversified. The health of our exports does, however, continue to rely strongly on the “Airbus factor”, where deliveries fell 57% in 2015 to €441 million (after +35% year-on-year growth in 2014, and +66.7% in 2013). Aircraft aside, our general trade is up (+10.3%), explained in particular by the export performance of sectors such as perfumes and toiletries (+17.3% to €419 million), communications equipment (+25.7% to €201.5 million) and medicines (+19.1% to €167 million).

The three largest export sectors share almost 74% of our sales: non-agrifood consumer goods represent 30.2% of the total (+9.7%, at €1.16 billion), ahead of equipment goods (29.5% of sales, at €1.13 billion, a rise of +18.7%), and transport equipment (14.5% of sales, compared to 28.5% in 2014, at €557 million, a fall of -52.4% year-on-year). Agrifood products have continued to grow (+6.2% to €406 million).

Imports: Imports from the UAE fell by 15% in 2014, before growing by 2% in 2015 to reach €1.09 billion. This is mainly accounted for by the rise in our petroleum products purchases, which made up 74% of our imports in 2015 (+11.5% to €808.5 million) and, to a lesser extent, those of aluminium, our second-largest import from the UAE (+32.6% to €99 million), while prices of both these commodities fell in 2015.

A growing French presence in the UAE

In 2013, the stock of French foreign direct investment (FDI) in the UAE became negative for the first time since 2003, standing at -€763 million, compared to €287 million in 2012. This temporary development in terms of investment is in contrast with the growth in France’s economic presence in the UAE in recent years. The UAE is currently home to the largest number of establishments by French companies, with almost 600 (+10% growth per year), most of which are major CAC 40 companies which establish regional headquarters in Dubai. The French presence in the UAE is diversified and our companies are particularly well represented in the country’s strategic sectors.

The UAE is the leading Gulf investor in France

UAE investments in France represent almost 40% of overall Middle East FDI in the country, with an FDI stock of €4.9 billion in 2013 – a major rise compared to 2012 (€1.6 billion). In 2013, these flows became positive for the first time since 2009, standing at €3.3 billion, compared to -€1.7 billion in 2012.
UAE investors have a minority or majority stake in about 50 companies in France (source: Orbis/Invest in France Agency). UAE investments in France remain heavily focused on securities and real estate, either directly or via investment funds. Investment in industry remains low in comparison to the investment capacities of the UAE.

The projects of Emirati companies currently remain very focused on real estate and, to a lesser extent, tourism and aviation. The major destinations are Île-de-France, the Lyon area and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

Educational, Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

France and the United Arab Emirates are putting in place two emblematic joint projects: Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and Louvre Abu Dhabi. Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi is the only French-speaking university in the Gulf, and awarded its first diplomas in May 2010. It is continuing to develop and has 800 students, of whom 25% are from the UAE. It initially focused on humanities and social sciences, before opening a BSc in mathematics and physics in 2013. It should soon offer quality vocational training for the oil industry, in association with Total, IFP Energies nouvelles and UTC Compiègne. Louvre Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, should be inaugurated in late 2016, with the building by Jean Nouvel currently in the final phases of construction. Its opening coincides with a Cultural Season, of which the first event was organized in Abu Dhabi on 16 March 2016. The first works acquired (more than 200 pieces from all periods and countries) were presented during a major exhibition in Abu Dhabi in April 2013, then in the Paris Louvre Museum from May-July 2014. The list of the 300 masterpieces on loan from French museums has been published.

Military cooperation

France is the UAE’s second-largest partner given the nature and number of cooperation activities (more than 100 annually). Our cooperation is the most comprehensive and intense in the region, with a highly operational dimension thanks to the pre-positioned disposition of the French forces in the UAE (700 service members) and a wide variety of cooperation fields.

Updated: 25 March 2016

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