Since 2009, bilateral relations have been punctuated by political consultations at senior official level. The most recent were held in Paris in June 2019 and in La Paz in March 2017. Key themes of France and Bolivia’s bilateral relations include student mobility and official development assistance through the Agence Française de Développement (AFD).
Consulate: Consulate of France in La Paz
French community: 1,450 registered (2019)
Bolivian community in France: 1,635
France and Bolivia have maintained diplomatic relations since 1831. Two French Presidents have visited Bolivia: General de Gaulle in 1964 and Jacques 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. Evo Morales and Emmanuel Macron spoke on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2019.
These meetings confirmed the friendly nature of our relationship.
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 of 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 2018, our two countries traded €178 million in goods, versus €144 million in 2017. 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 €66.8 million in 2018, a nominal change on 2017.
Bolivia is France’s 122nd customer in the world (13th in Latin America) and only accounts for a little over 0.01% of France’s exports. The main categories of exported products include, in order of importance: IT products, electronic and optical products (33.2% of exports in 2018), chemicals, perfumes and cosmetics (17%), industrial and agricultural machinery (11.1%) and pharmaceuticals (9.6%).
In 2017, France’s imports from Bolivia increased by 59.3%.
Bolivia is France’s 122nd supplier (14th in Latin America) and only accounts for a little over 0.01% of France’s imports.
These imports are mainly mining products which totalled €85 million in 2018 (76% of France’s total imports from Bolivia). Agricultural and agrifood products account for 16% of France’s imports and organic chemicals only 3.1% (in decline decline for several years).
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 whom half are in La Paz.
In the scientific field, one of the biggest offices of the French Research Institute for Development (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 Bolivia’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” programme financed by the Bolivian government, which under which France is a major destination.
The AFD has been authorized to work in Bolivia since 2015. It supports development projects for green and inclusive growth as a priority: energy, water and sanitation. An office was open in La Paz in August 2015, made up of five people. To date, the AFD has committed over €436 million in Bolivia, comprised of approximately €418 million in AFD loans and €18 million through PROPARCO.
In its emergency aid package that President Emmanuel Macron announced at the G7 Summit in August 2019, France established cooperation with Bolivia to help fight wildfires in the Amazon. This emergency response, which included private and public funds, helped deploy a detachment of French civil security military forces from 8 to 26 September 2019. They helped put out 720 hectares of fires. Hours of helicopter intervention were also funded and several tons of materials to fight the fires were given to the Bolivian civil security.
Bolivia is the leading beneficiary of European assistance in Latin America (outside of the Caribbean), with € 281 million for the period 2014-2020. European assistance is focused on judicial reform and the fight against corruption, the fight against illicit drug production and trafficking, and the management of water resources. As regards cooperation, joint programming of the EU and its Member States represented in Bolivia was adopted for the period 2017-2020.
In the area of trade, since 2009 Bolivia has benefited from GSP (Generalised Scheme of Preferences) and since 2014 from GSP+, which develops its exports to the European Union (trade of about €400 million a year). An annual evaluation with regard to 27 human rights, social and environmental conventions is conducted by the European Commission and has been extended since 2016. Lastly, Bolivia signed a MERCOSUR Accession Protocol on 17 July 2015. This Protocol must however be ratified by Brazil.
Updated: January 2020