France and Laos

Bilateral relations

The historical ties between France and Laos make our two countries special partners. France accompanies Laos in its development through supporting rural and urban development, the health sector and the preservation of heritage. Along with Germany and, since 2012, the United Kingdom, France has one of the only three European diplomatic representations in Vientiane.

The Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Liem Tikheo, visited the International Agricultural Show in Paris at the invitation of his French counterpart in February 2017. The Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Bongsengkham Vongdara, visited France from 2-11 December 2017 at the invitation of the French Minister of Culture. The Deputy Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Ms Bounekham Vorachit, represented Laos at the One Planet Summit on climate finance held in Paris on 12 December 2017.

France is the leading Western investor in Laos. Several major French groups have set up there successfully (EDF, Essilor, BRED-Banque Populaire, Bureau Veritas), and many SMEs have been established by French entrepreneurs living locally, operating essentially in the services sector (hospitality, tourism, catering, insurance, engineering and architecture). In the industrial field, French businesses are particularly present in the aeronautics, textiles, crafts and building sectors.

While 90% of Laotian trade is with its neighbours, France was its 16th-largest trading partner in 2016 and its fourth-largest European supplier behind Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, with market share of 0.2%. Trade between our two countries stood at €29 million in 2016. Whereas sales of transport equipment represented close to 80% of our sales over the previous eight years, the lack of aircraft deliveries in 2015 led to a collapse in our exports (€10.6 million in 2015) and a trade deficit with Laos of €7.4 million in 2016. That year, our leading fields of exports were mechanical and electrical and electronic equipment (36%), agrifood products (13%) and transport equipment (12%). Textiles (garments) have been drivers of Laotian exports to Europe since the establishment of the “Everything But Arms” system. For the last decade, they have represented the majority of goods imported by France (59% on average). The second-largest field – agrifood products – represents 33% of our imports.

Bilateral cooperation between France and Laos is focused on five areas: health care, agriculture and urban development, governance (justice, civil society, non-State actors) and linguistic cooperation (bilingual stream in the State primary and secondary education system, francophone programmes at universities). Since 1994, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD, French Development Agency AFD) has committed more than €150 million in Laos (€128 million in the form of grants and a loan of $30 million to fund the Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric dam). France’s cooperation bodies include the AFD, the Cultural Cooperation and Outreach Service (SCAC), the Institut Français, a French lycée (school), the French School of Asian Studies (EFEO), the French National Research Institute for Development (IRD), the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), the Mérieux Foundation and the Fabre Foundation. Decentralized cooperation focuses on the sectors of heritage and urban development, particularly at Luang Prabang (Centre-Val de Loire Region, in liaison with the AFD), sustainable tourism in Khammouane Province (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region) and water and sanitation, such as in Vientiane (Interdepartmental authority for sanitation for Paris and suburbs – SIAAP, Île-de-France water regulatory authority – SEDIF, and City of Cannes). Numerous French NGOs with public funding are active in the fields of health care and local development.

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Updated: 14 June 2018