France and South America
The increase in raw material prices, the creation of ambitious social programmes to reduce poverty and the vibrancy of integration projects contributed to the prosperity of South American countries. This progress was undermined by the COVID-19 global health crisis. But the return of economic growth and the organization of elections shifted the focus of many governments. This situation opens up new opportunities to continue developing closer ties with France.
Politically and commercially, South Africa has for several years been seeking to diversify its partnerships, particularly as a consequence of American trade policy. This trend can benefit relations with China, now Latin America’s second-largest customer (and for example, Brazil, Peru and Chile’s leading customer) through the purchase of raw materials, while also becoming a major investor.
Closer relations with the European Union (EU) are also being built, including through the modernization of the EU-Chile Association Agreement. The European Union is also bound by a free trade agreement with Peru and Colombia (signed in 2012) and with Ecuador (2016). Concluding an agreement with Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) will require further commitments on the protection of climate and the environment, in line with the new framework for European free trade agreements, which sets our social and environmental requirements.
Promising prospects have been opened up by the peace agreements in Colombia and the resumption of political dialogue between the EU and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). The region has major benefits to help it overcome these challenges:
- Increased political stability for over 20 years. Recent changes in government in Brazil, Chile and Colombia seem to confirm the resilience of democratic institutions. This could encourage regional integration, as proven by closer ties between Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance;
- The predominance of relatively sound and sensible economic policies, which aim to comply with major macroeconomic balances. Furthermore, in the long term, the growing middle class (now over 280 million Latin Americans) should also play a part in increasing people’s demands of their governments.
The opening up of South America is creating new expectations for Europe, which France is well placed to meet. We have traditionally enjoyed a good relationship with countries in the region, facilitated by shared values and many cultural affinities. France is also present in South America through French Guiana and shares a long border with Brazil (720 km) and Surinam (520 km).
Recent years have seen much stronger political ties (visits to France by the Argentinian, Chilean and Colombian presidents, as well as many Latin American ministers).
We have major partnerships in South America, both economically, academically and scientifically (ECOS-SUD programmes with Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, ECOS-NORD with Colombia, MATH-AMSUD with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Peru, BRAFAGRI and BRAFITEC with Brazil etc.). Closer relations with the International Organisation of the Francophonie (Uruguay and Argentina are observer members, while Paraguay would like to follow suit) also shows the renewed interest in the French language, which should be encouraged through our linguistic cooperation.
In terms of education, France and South America have much expertise to share. Cooperation in the area of vocational training which is underway with Chile (Viña del Mar technological university), Ecuador (Millennium Educational Units) and Argentina (Cordoba centre of excellence) are avenues to be explored. South America has first-rate institutions (e.g. Pasteur Institute in Montevideo, French Institute of Andean Studies (IFEA) in Lima, National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology (INRIA) in Chile).
In multilateral bodies, South American countries are natural partners for France (cultural proximity, commitment to democracy, rule of law, human rights and support for effective multilateralism, defence of the environment). The role of States in the region in the various COP negotiations showed just how valuable this proximity was to meet the major challenges of global warming and biodiversity protection. Their influence in the United Nations (General Assembly, Security Council, institutions and programmes, involvement in peacekeeping operations) means that France and the European Union must hold a genuine political partnership with them.
Since 2006, France has had a strategic partnership with Brazil and is in favour of granting it a seat as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. France has also been supporting the Colombian peace process from the outset. It is working with countries in the region on multilateral initiatives (with Argentina on the Convention of the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearances, with Chile on lithium and green hydrogen). Along with the EU, France is keen for a resumption of dialogue in order to resolve the political, economic, social and migratory crisis in Venezuela. France is also fostering relations with South American regional organizations and has the status of observer member in several of them (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPALC), Pacific Alliance, Union of South American Nations (UNASUR)).
In environmental matters, in 2019 France instigated the Alliance for the Conservation of Rainforests which aims, inter alia, to strengthen international cooperation to fight fires. Through a specific budget dedicated to the Alliance ($100 million), France has financed projects to benefit the Amazon.
Economically and socially, France is seeking to build beneficial cooperation based on reciprocity. We want to set out genuine technological partnerships with South American partnerships, which contribute to the diversification of economies and an upswing in the value-added chain. This involves developing French Tech hubs and communities (Argentina, Brazil, Chile) and long-term academic and scientific cooperation. The link between research and production, via innovation, is therefore a priority.
Socially, the many exchanges through the EUROsociAL programme must be extended to help consolidate social protection systems. More broadly, governance issues (reform of public policy, fight against corruption and money laundering) are essential and are addressed through fruitful dialogue, including as part of Brazil and Peru’s OECD membership process, supported by France.
Furthermore, along with several South American partners, France is promoting gender equality issues and the rights of LGBT+ persons in multilateral forums and through tangible projects implemented by our embassies and agencies.
In the medium term, South America will remain the world’s most urbanized region, and supporting innovative and sustainable urban hubs looks to be a priority. Urban growth is a significant challenge in terms of transport, access to public services, security and facilities. France is making its contribution through the exchange of expertise, the submission of tenders by French companies in the area and actions by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD, French Development Agency) (present in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Suriname), whose mandate allows it to support sustainable and inclusive development in countries in the region.
Updated: January 2023