France and Chile


Political relations

Following a freeze in political relations during the dictatorship, high-level contacts were re-established in 1989. Chile is a historic partner of France in the field of innovative financing for development. France provides the permanent secretariat of the Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development.

Official visits take place regularly:

To Chile

  • May 2006: President Chirac
  • 20-21 January 2017: President Hollande

To France

  • May 2009: President Bachelet
  • October 2010: President Piñera
  • 8-9 June 2015: President Bachelet
  • 2 June 2016 (OECD): President Bachelet

Ministerial visits also maintain the excellent quality of the bilateral relationship:

To Chile

  • January 2013 (EU-CELAC Summit): Jean-Marc Ayrault (Prime Minister), Marisol Touraine, Bernard Cazeneuve, Pascal Canfin and Benoît Hamon
  • 23-26 April 2015: Najat Vallaud-Belkacem

To France

  • 2 October 2014: Rodrigo Peñailillo (Minister of the Interior)
  • 6 November 2014: Nicolás Eyzaguirre (Minister of Education)
  • 2015: Ernesto Ottone (Minister of Culture)
  • November 2014: Jorge Burgos (Defence Minister)

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Economic and trade relations

France’s role in Chile is in keeping with its economic weight in Europe. Three-quarters of CAC 40 listed companies have a significant presence in Chile. A quarter of them hold a leading position in the market. Some play a key role in Chile’s economy: two Engie subsidiaries (E-CL and Aguas Andinas) are listed in Santiago and Sodexo is one of the top five private employers in Chile (19,000 employees). Chile is our second-largest export market in South America (€975 million in 2017, up 37% on 2016) after Brazil and ahead of Argentina and Colombia. France is Chile’s third-largest European supplier, after Germany and Spain, but ahead of Italy.

Owing to Chile’s stature in the global supply of copper (accounting for almost one-third of global production and over a third of world exports), the French trade deficit is structural. The deficit, however, is narrowing, moving from €1.38 billion in 2006 to €115 million in 2017.

France holds a major position in the strategic sectors of energy and infrastructure. French operators cover the range of energy sources whose development is considered a priority by the Chilean Energy Agenda published in 2014: Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) (Mejillones LNG terminal operated by Engie and the El Campesino power plant project in association with EDF) and renewables (GDF Suez wind farm, Solairedirect portfolio of project investments, El Salvador Solar Park set up by Total Energies Nouvelles (EN), DCNS research centre on marine energy won in 2015, EDF projects).

Regarding infrastructure, French engineering continues to play an active part in developing the Santiago Metro (Colas Rail and Systra), the financing of which is mainly structured by BNP Paribas. In February 2015, the concession to operate Santiago International Airport and build a second terminal was awarded to the ADPI-VINCI Airports consortium.

Chilean investment stock in France totals US$616 million. However, Luksic Group’s shareholding in the French company Nexans, through Invexans, alone totalled US$487 million (in 2016). In 2015, Chilean conglomerate Sigdo Koppers announced the takeover of Dijon’s Davey Bickford group, a world leader in detonators.

The Franco-Chilean Year of Innovation in 2017 showcased France and Chile’s shared priorities. It aimed both to bring to light new projects and give increased visibility to our exchanges based around six themes: astronomy and space, energy, smart cities, smart agriculture, ICTs and health.

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France is present in Chile through its Institut français in Santiago and nine Alliances françaises (Antofagasta, La Serena, Viña del Mar, Chillán, Concepción, Valdivia, Osorno, Puerto Montt and Easter Island).

Its relationship with Chile is most vibrant and diversified in the cultural, scientific and academic fields.

In the academic field, there are now 12 specific agreements on higher education and research, which have helped start several bilateral programmes and develop institutional cooperation between the ministries of education and higher education of both countries. Almost 350 agreements have been signed between French and Chilean universities. France is the third-largest host country for Chilean students (there were 800 students in French institutions in 2015/16). In March 2014, the University of Technology of Compiègne (UTC) inaugurated a campus at the French Lycée in Viña del Mar, supported by Engie, which hosts a common core of Latin American and French engineering students. An agreement on mutual recognition of studies and diplomas, to pursue higher education in the partner country, was signed in June 2015 during Ms Bachelet’s official visit to France.

In the field of vocational training, cooperation is strengthened through public-private partnerships: four training centres in automotive mechatronics created with Peugeot (2009), which recently formed a partnership with Total, as well as a training centre in civil and railway engineering with Colas-Rail (2015). In 2017, Schneider Electric and Vinci also signed agreements in the area of vocational training in Chile.

In the field of research, Chile is focusing on creating centres of excellence and on industrial development, with universities as key players. By 2018, the government aims to increase resources allocated to research and innovation to 1.2% of GDP. The wealth of French-Chilean scientific cooperation is founded on long-standing ties and significant investment by major French research bodies such as the CNRS and INRIA. This cooperation is structured around ECOS, a Policy and scientific cooperation evaluation programme which provides funding for some 50 research projects each year. Since 1992, over 400 projects have been selected.

Scientific cooperation between Chile and France consists of several shared research units: a Joint International Unit (IMU) opened in September 2011 by the CNRS in the field of astronomy, in addition to the Mathematical Modelling Centre; four International Associated Laboratories (LIA) linked to the CNRS and two LIAs associated with the French Research Institute for Development (IRD). In August 2011, the Chilean Economic Development Agency (CORFO) within the Ministry of the Economy, selected INRIA’s project to create a centre of excellence in information technology (Communication and Information Research and Innovation Centre, CIRIC), with a budget of €30 million over ten years and geared towards research and technology transfer. INRIA has also signed an agreement with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), extending the existing cooperation on innovation for two years. In 2015, CORFO again selected a DCNS-led project to create a centre of excellence on marine renewable energy (MERIC).

France continues to have real influence in Chile, particularly in the fields of performing and visual arts, and is assisting the Chilean government as it considers creating a Ministry for Culture and Heritage (meeting in March 2016 between the two Culture Ministers).

The sharing of ideas, which mobilizes French expertise and intellectuals (Michel Foucault Chair, the d’Alembert Fund, Puerto de Ideas Foundation, etc.), is an essential component of our outreach in Chile.

A declaration of intent regarding women’s rights was signed during Ms Bachelet’s visit in 2015. This will enable French experience in this area to be shared with Chile.

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Updated: 01.04.18