France and Quebec

Political relations

France has had “direct and special relations” with Quebec, based on historic, cultural and economic ties, since the 1960s. The General Delegation of Quebec, which has been in Paris since 1961, and the French Consulate-General in Quebec, have comparable political and cooperation roles to those of embassies. Relations between France and Quebec are institutionalized by meetings every two years between the respective Prime Ministers, alternating between the two locations.

On 17 October 2008, France and Quebec signed an understanding on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications. This document facilitates access to regulated professions in the respective territories through a gradual implementation: negotiations between competent French and Quebec authorities for each profession to sign mutual recognition arrangements (ARM), and amendment of legislative, regulatory and administrative standards. Ten years on, thousands of people have benefited from 80 of these arrangements (nurses, lawyers, engineers, doctors, etc.) and have had their skills recognized in France or Quebec.

Economic relations

After falling slightly in 2016, France’s trade with the province of Quebec grew by 6.5% in 2017, to reach 4.34 billion CAD, mainly due to the considerable increase in France’s exports (up nearly 9%). According to Statistics Canada’s figures, the exports of French products to Quebec reached 2.8 billion CAD vs 2.57 billion CAD in 2016. France is also witnessing a slight increase in imports from Quebec which have increased from 1.51 billion CAD in 2016 to 1.54 billion CAD for the year 2017. France has traditionally had a significantly positive trade balance and it has increased further from 1.06 billion CAD to 1.26 billion CAD in 2017, a 20% increase taking it back to its 2015 level.

Our biggest selling industries remain unchanged from year to year: industrial chemical products (55 million CAD) which is increasing, food industry (531 million CAD) up 10% in a year, industrial machinery and equipment (529 million CAD) which has remained unchanged, transport equipment (410 million CAD) which has increased significantly. These four industries account for 72% of our exports. It is also important to mention the pulp and paper industry where our sales reach 150 million CAD. The increase in French exports to Quebec in 2017 is mainly accounted for by the increase in our sales of alcoholic drinks (405 million CAD, a 15% increase), pharmaceutical products (237 million CAD, a 35% increase), aircraft and aeronautical parts (334 million CAD, up 60%). Our main exports have remained stable: cosmetics (198 million CAD), turboprops and turbojets (328 million CAD), publishing products (93 million CAD) and paper and cardboard (56 million CAD).

For 2017, across all imports from Quebec (1.54 billion CAD), mineral products (584 million CAD vs 459 million in 2016), machines and materials (391 million CAD vs 417 million 2016) as well as transport equipment (215 million CAD down from 321 million CAD in 2016) are the most important imports representing 77%.

Quebec remains the area of Canada with which France trades the most for both imports and exports (Montreal’s international container port, which also serves other provinces, is a significant asset for Quebec). Our exports to Quebec represent 45% of total French exports to Canada and some 49% of Canadian exports to France come from Quebec. Lastly, in 2017, France was Quebec’s fifth-largest provider behind the USA (24.5 billion CAD), China (10.9 billion), Germany (3.59 billion) and the United Kingdom (3.26 billion) and ahead of Italy (2.48 billion). France’s sales only represent 3.6% of Quebec’s imports.

France is present in Quebec in all industries with the exception of mass retail. It is focused on the aeronautic, pharmacy-healthcare-biotechnologies and ICT industries. The majority of major French groups are present in Quebec and subsidiaries of French SMEs are increasingly present. In terms of investment stock, France is the 2nd-largest investor in Quebec (5th investor in Canada), behind the United States and United Kingdom. France was the leading country of origin for investments between 2011 and 2016 when it lost its first place to the United States according to the economic development agency Montréal International. Nearly half of foreign direct investment come from US companies, more than double the level of FDI in 2015. In Montreal, French investments totalled 229 million CAD in 2016 (17% of the total) vs 323 million CAD in 2015 (32% of the total). Some 70% of French subsidiaries present in Canada are located in Quebec (including Air Liquide, Bolloré, EDF, Ubisoft and Alstom.). Over 400 French subsidiaries are present in secondary establishments (sub-subsidiaries, factories and branch offices) and they employ over 30,000 people (some 80,000 across Canada). Some 300 of these subsidiaries are in the Greater Montreal area. 160 companies from Quebec are also present in France, including several major groups: Bombardier (aviation, railway construction), Cascades (paper), Québecor (printing). They have created more than 20,000 jobs.

The presence of 300 out of the 400 French International Corporate Volunteers in Canada are present in Quebec.

Economic and trade issues are discussed during the annual meetings of the France-Quebec Economic Cooperation Group (GFQCE). In 2013, France and Quebec moved onto new ground in economic talks, in the framework of Quebec’s northern development (mining and renewable energy sectors and digital development) and the electrification of transport.

Cultural, scientific and institutional cooperation

The major focuses of cooperation are decided by the Prime Ministers during their regular meetings in the two locations. The legal framework of our cooperation and its instruments is distinct from those of our cooperation with the federal government of Canada. This cooperation is organized by the France-Quebec Permanent Structured Cooperation (CPCFQ). Our cooperation draws in particular on specialized bodies such as the Franco-Quebecois Youth Office (OFQJ) and the France-Quebec council for university cooperation (CFQCU).

Decentralized cooperation is taking off. Exchanges between local governments in France and Quebec have developed considerably in recent years thanks to the France-Quebec decentralized cooperation fund (FFQCD) established in 2005. Decentralized cooperation was opened up in 2011 to operations in third countries, with the launch of a call for projects in Haiti.

Our scientific and academic cooperation is intense. Most actions co-financed equally with the Quebec side seek to structure partnerships, through the creation of integrated courses and joint laboratories, joint-supervised PhDs (more than 3000 defended to date), mobility of teaching staff, and the organization of scientific events and symposiums. While this cooperation was long based on an agreement providing for waived fees for French students in Quebec (tuition fees aligned with those of Quebec home students), the closure of this scheme by Quebec’s government led France and Quebec to conclude a new agreement on 6 March 2015. This means an alignment of fees for newly enrolled students in bachelor’s programmes in Quebec with those due from other Canadian students from outside Quebec, starting from the 2015 intake. The agreement does, however, provide for maintaining tuition fees similar to those of Quebec home students on postgraduate courses, as well as for all French students residing in Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

Cultural cooperation is particularly intense between France and Quebec in all aspects of contemporary artistic creation. It is based on a number of partnerships between many local artists and cultural operators. Quebec is the leading export market for the French cultural industries. The current priority is seeking new partnerships and high-level co-creation projects.

Updated: 30 November 2018