Since 2009, bilateral relations have been punctuated by political consultations at senior official level. The latest consultations were held in Paris and La Paz on 13 November 2013 and 7 March 2017, respectively. Key themes of France and Bolivia’s bilateral relations include student mobility and official development assistance through the Agence Française de Développement.
France and Bolivia have maintained diplomatic relations since 1845. Two French Presidents have visited Bolivia: General de Gaulle in 1964 and President Chirac in 1997.
President Evo Morales was received in France as President-elect in January 2006. He returned for official visits in May 2006, February 2009 and November 2015. He carried out a working visit to France on 12 and 13 March 2013 and participated in the One Planet Summit on 12 December 2017. Mr Jean-Pierre Bel, the President’s Personal Envoy for Latin America and the Caribbean, visited La Paz from 6 to 8 March 2017 to participate in high-level meetings with local authorities.
These visits confirmed the friendly nature of our relationship. They were opportunities for the French President to express his wish to deepen political dialogue and bilateral cooperation with Bolivia.
At ministerial level, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Mr Laurent Fabius, met with President Evo Morales on the sidelines of COP20 and to prepare COP21, respectively in Lima in December 2014, and Cochabamba, in October 2015. The Bolivian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr David Choquehuanca, has visited France on several occasions in January and July 2008, January 2011, October 2012, and November 2013. During these last two visits, he was received by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The Bolivian Minister of Planning and Development, Mr René Orellana, made a working visit to France from 12 to 15 December 2016. During his visit, he met with Mr Matthias Fekl, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, and with Mr Jean-Pierre Bel. The Bolivian Public Works Minister, Mr Milton Claros, made a working visit to France from 26 to 28 January 2017. On this occasion he met Mr Alain Vidalies, Minister of State for Transport, Marine Affairs and Fisheries and held discussions with representatives of the AFD.
Trade between France and Bolivia remains nominal but it is fast increasing. The total value of trade has varied between €119 million and €187 million over the last five years with volatility largely due to the fluctuating cost of raw materials. In 2017, France and Bolivia traded €144 million in goods, an increase of 28% on 2016. French investment, which is estimated at over US$500 million, could more than double with the involvement of Total (development of the Incahuasi gas field).
The geographical isolation of this small market also explains low direct sales, because many French products found in Bolivia are imported and distributed from neighbouring countries (Chile, Peru and Brazil), and are not included in bilateral statistics.
French exports reached €63.1 million in 2017, a nominal change on 2016 (up 2.4%).
Bolivia is France’s 117th customer (12th customer in Latin America) and only accounts for a little over 0.01% of France’s exports. The main categories of exports are, by order of importance, equipment (56% of the 2017 total due to the Thalès contract), pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetic products (36% in 2017).
In 2017, France’s imports from Bolivia increased by 59.3%.
Bolivia is France’s 105th supplier (14th supplier in Latin America) and only accounts for a little over 0.01% of France’s imports.
These imports are mainly mining products which totalled €52.5 million in 2017 (65% of France’s total imports from Bolivia). Agricultural and agrifood products accounted for 19% of France’s imports and organic chemistry products only represented 4.4% following a second year of decline (down 72.4%).
Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation
Cultural cooperation is based on the two French lycées in La Paz (1,031 pupils in 2018) and Santa Cruz (469 pupils), as well as a dynamic network of four Alliance Française branches in La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Sucre with 2,500 students of which half are in La Paz.
In the scientific field, one of the biggest offices of the French Insitute for Development Research (IRD) in Latin America is in Bolivia, with some 20 staff members. Its work focuses mainly on climate change, health and glaciers. A research associate from the French Institute for Andean Studies (IFEA) is also present in the country and works on developing archaeological dig projects.
Bolivia has also joined French research programmes in the region (STIC and MATH AmSud).
France is the 4th most popular country for Bolivian students abroad (400 students) and Bolvia’s 6th most important scientific partner (over 100 co-publications per year). An agreement on mutual recognition of diplomas was signed in June 2018.
Student mobility is based on some 30 university agreements and the “scientific and technological sovereignty” sovereignty programme financed by the Bolivian government which benefits France considerably.
The AFD has been authorized to work in Bolivia since 2015. As a priority, it supports development projects for green and inclusive growth in the areas of energy, and water and sanitation. An agency was opened in La Paz in August 2015 with five staff members.
To date, the AFD group has committed over €300 million to Bolivia comprised approximately of €280 million in AFD loans and €20 million from PROPARCO.
Updated: February 2019