France and Venezuela
French Ambassador to Venezuela: Mr Frederic Desagneaux
Venezuelan Ambassador to France: Mr Héctor Mujica Ricardo
France and Venezuela maintain regular political relations. Victorin Lurel, Minister for Overseas France, attended the funeral of Hugo Chavez, and Hélène Conway-Mouret, Minister Delegate for French Nationals Abroad, represented France at the inauguration of his successor. The Third Meeting of the Venezuela-France High-Level Bilateral Commission took place in Caracas on 24November2012. It was chaired by Mr Benoît Hamon, French Minister Delegate for the Social, Mutually Supportive Economy and Consumption, and by Mr Nicolas Maduro, the then First Vice-President of the Republic and Foreign Minister. Several agreements were signed on that occasion. Nicolas Maduro made an official visit to France in June2013. His meeting with the President of the French Republic was an opportunity to set out a bilateral agenda (economic projects and cooperation) and highlight trade prospects.
France’s relations with Venezuela are primarily based on major contracts (oil and urban transport in particular). The country attracts significant investment, mainly in the fields of oil, gas, transport, chemistry and pharmaceuticals. Although trade has slowed markedly over the last two years, France remains the third largest foreign investor in Venezuela, with an estimated stock of $5billion (including flows that pass through third countries).
According to the Banque de France, our businesses, with Total in the lead, invested an average of €460million per year between 2005 and 2008, but since the start of the international crisis, their asset movements to Venezuela have been negative. Venezuelan investment in France is very limited (annual flow below €1million).
Some 40 French companies are established in Venezuela (compared with about100 in 2008), in the form of subsidiaries, branches or representative offices, in many areas of activity. Alongside the dominant major groups (Total, Alstom, Air France, L’Oréal, Sanofi-Aventis, Pernod Ricard, Lactalis, etc.), there are a number of independent entrepreneurs and SMEs.
Our partnership is supported by an agreement on reciprocal promotion and protection of investments (API), which came into force in April2004 and is valid until 2019, and by sector-specific cooperation instruments (energy, transport and the social and solidarity economy). Venezuela, however, withdrew from the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in January2012, raising the question of dispute resolution, particularly in the event of nationalization.
French exports to Venezuela totalled €281million in 2015 (-31% in one year) and our imports totalled €94million (-18% in one year, mainly energy products). The coverage of French imports was 299% in 2015. Unlike our investments, our market share remains low (1.2%; 14th-largest supplier). In 2015, Venezuela was our 88th-largest customer and our 101st-largest supplier.
Business France has operated in Venezuela through a public service delegation at the French-Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce and Industry since 2012. This delegation is at the disposal of French businesses to help them with forecasting, in close collaboration with the Economic Service at the French Embassy. The same is true of the dynamic section of French Foreign Trade Advisers, which represents the various sectors of French supply.
Based on long-standing ties, particularly in culture, the arts, thought and research, French cooperation helps to drive our soft diplomacy. The main focuses of our action, which is largely cofinanced, are as follows:
strong cooperation in higher education and research: PCP/RU21 and ECOS Nord scientific programmes; Masters and PhD scholarship programme with the Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho Foundation (Fundayacucho) under the supervision of the Venezuelan Ministry for Science, Technology and Innovation; signing of a scientific cooperation agreement between the French Institute of Research for Development (IRD) and Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC) in November2012; opening of the Renault Venezuela Training Centre for Automotive Mechatronics in November2012; cooperation projects in the field of new technologies (telecommunications, satellite imagery, etc.);
promotion of the French language, assistance in publishing French authors’ works and support for the French Lycée in Caracas (Colegio Francia), which comprises two sections: a French section (around 800students) and a Venezuelan section (around 500students);
an extensive cultural programme, implemented with the support of sponsors and a growing network of Alliance Française branches (7310 students in2012) in ten cities: Caracas (four separate centres), Maracaibo, Valencia, Barquisimeto, Mérida, Porlamar, Puerto La Cruz, Barinas, Maracay and Cumaná since June 2013;
This cultural action is developing to include highlights such as the Francophonie Festival, the French Film Festival and the Fête de la Musique, and invitations for French artists to take part in cultural events organized by the Venezuelan Ministry of Culture. It also incorporates major projects, such as the Cine Concierto Casanova in 2011 and the opera Bolívar by Darius Milhaud in March2012, organized in close partnership with the youth orchestra system El Sistema, which was founded by the maestro José Antonio Abreu in 1975, and the big photo exhibition Raymond Depardon’s France at the Museum of Fine Arts in Caracas in2013.
development of cooperation projects in architecture and urban planning through support for the future Venezuelan Museum of Architecture (development of a partnership with the French Institute of Architecture) and for the renovation of the Sabanas Grande pedestrianized boulevard;
fostering the sharing of ideas by inviting French speakers to take part in various symposiums and seminars, especially at universities, such as the Latin America and Caribbean Week organized by the Simón Bolívar University (USB).