France and Bolivia maintain friendly relations. President Morales was received on several occasions in France and presidential-and ministerial-level meetings have taken place regularly between our two countries in recent years.
Key themes of France and Bolivia’s bilateral relations include student mobility and official development assistance through the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). More generally, Bolivia is an international partner for global challenges, in particular on environmental matters.
Bilateral consultations are held every two years; the latest took place virtually in June 2021, with France represented by the Americas and Caribbean Director.
Consulate: Consulate of France in La Paz
French community: 1,253 registered (2020)
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, and made a working visit in March 2013. Presidents Morales and Hollande met again in New York in September 2013, in 2014 and in June 2015 on the sidelines of the EU-CELAC Summit in Brussels. Evo Morales took part in the opening of COP21 in Paris on 30 November 2015 and the One Planet Summit on 12 December 2017.
Evo Morales and Emmanuel Macron spoke on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2019.
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 in Lima in December 2014, and in 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 in December 2016, and the Minister for Transport, Mr Milton Claros, visited in January 2017.
Bolivia received ministerial-level visits in 2002, 2006 and 2014 from Ms Brigitte Girardin, Minister of State for Cooperation, Development and Francophonie, who travelled for the inaugurations of Presidents Sanchez de Lozada and Morales, and Mr Benoît Hamon, Minister Delegate for the Social and Inclusive Economy and Consumer Affairs. Mr Jean-Pierre Bel, the President’s Personal Envoy for Latin America and the Caribbean, also visited La Paz from 6 to 8 March 2017 to participate in a number of high-level meetings.
French Ambassador in Bolivia: Hélène Roos
Trade between France and Bolivia remains nominal. The total value of trade varied between €119 million and €187 million between 2015 and 2019, with volatility largely due to the fluctuating cost of commodities. In 2020, in the context of the pandemic, the overall total of our trade was €98 million, a significant drop compared to 2019 (down 45%). Trade between France and Bolivia in 2021 remained similar (up 1.1%). In 2021, our exports amounted to €31.6 million, while our imports amounted to €67 million, in decline for the third consecutive year.
The geographical isolation of the country 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.
In 2021, Bolivia was France’s 143rd customer (20th customer in Latin America) and only accounted for 0.007% of France’s exports. French exports are made up almost exclusively of manufactured products (chemicals, perfumes and cosmetics, pharmaceuticals; computer and electronic equipment, etc.).
In 2021, Bolivia was France’s 107th supplier (13th supplier in Latin America) and only accounted for 0.01% of France’s imports.
These imports are mainly mining products which represent 66% of France’s total imports. Our imports also include agricultural and agrifood products.
Total Energies is the leading French investor in Bolivia, with US$ 1.5 billion invested since 2014 to develop the Incahausi gas site. Thales supplies equipment to enable Bolivia to acquire an integrated air traffic control system. Around a dozen French businesses are present in Bolivia.
Cultural cooperation is based on the two French schools in La Paz (1,000 pupils in 2021) and Santa Cruz (600 pupils in 2021), 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. Through French cooperation, French artists in the fields of theatre, plastic arts and cinema visit Bolivia, and it focuses its action on events and training. French participation also operates to support Bolivian events such as the Festival Internacional de la Cultura in Sucre, and the International Book Fair in Santa Cruz.
In the scientific field, one of the biggest offices of the French Research Institute for Development (IRD) in Latin America is in Bolivia, where it has been established since 1968 and has around a dozen researchers working there. Its work focuses mainly on variability and climate change, altitude and aquatic biodiversity, health and the social sciences. 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 regional French research programmes such as STIC and MATH AmSud.
France is the 4th most popular country for Bolivian students abroad (465 students came to France in 2019-2020) and Bolvia’s sixth most important scientific partner (over 100 joint 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 enabled some 40 Bolivian students to study in France between 2015 and 2020.
The AFD has been authorized to work in Bolivia since 2015, when it opened an office there. It supports development projects for green and inclusive growth as a priority: energy, water and sanitation. To date, the AFD has committed over €544 million in Bolivia, comprised of approximately €510 million in sovereign loans and €10 million through PROPARCO.
Following 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, deployed 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 firefighting equipment were given to the Bolivian civil security. This cooperation continued with training activities.
France supported Bolivia in the fight against COVID-19, mobilizing a development assistance fund to boost diagnostic and treatment capacities. In the summer of 2021, equipment to combat COVID-19 was sent to Bolivia, along with vaccine donations via the COVAX Facility.
A cooperation agreement on intercountry adoption was signed with Bolivia in July 2021.
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, a joint programme between 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 the Generalized Scheme of Preference (GSP) 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.
Updated: August 2022