Political relations

The authorities of the United Arab Emirates, at the instigation of Sheikh Zayed, have quickly decided to acquire a deterrence-focused defence system and turned to France to provide it. Our relations, which at first were limited to hydrocarbons and security cooperation, now involve a wide spectrum of activities: cultural and academic cooperation (Louvre Abu Dhabi, Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi), installation of permanent French military bases in Abu Dhabi, and joint projects in the area of renewable energy.

Consultations take place very regularly at the highest level, and the strategic dialogue established in 2012 helps ensure technical follow-up of the major projects of our bilateral relationship. The Crown Prince has met the President of the French Republic on five occasions (11 July 2012, 15 January 2013, 16 January 2014, 10 February 2015 and 2 December 2016, while the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs meet regularly, either bilaterally or on the sidelines of international conferences. Regular French ministerial visits to the United Arab Emirates help maintain intense, political dialogue in all areas. The Secretary-General of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs co-chairs the biannual strategic dialogue, the ninth session of which was held in Abu Dhabi in November 2016. The International Conference on Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage, co-organized by France and the UAE, was held in Abu Dhabi on 2 and 3 December 2016, in the presence of the French President and several other national leaders.


since January 2015

  • 20 January 2015, Abu Dhabi: Ms Ségolène Royal, French Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy
  • 21 January 2015, Abu Dhabi: Ms Anne-Marie Idrac, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development’s special representative for economic exchanges with the UAE.
  • 10 November 2015, Paris: Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Advisor and Vice Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior.
  • 20 April 2015, Dubai: Ms Anne-Marie Idrac, the Minister’s special representative.
  • 20 April 2015, Dubai: Mr Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the President of the French Republic for the Protection of the Planet.
  • 27 May 2015, Lyon: Mr Khaldoon Al Mubarak, special representative of the Crown Prince for the Strategic Dialogue.
  • 2-3 June 2015, Paris: Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
  • 29 September 2015, Abu Dhabi, Dubai: Ms Anne-Marie Idrac, the Minister’s special representative.
  • 14 December 2015, Paris: Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
  • 18-19 January 2016, Abu Dhabi, Dubai: Mr Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development
  • 19 January 2016, Abu Dhabi: Ms Annick Girardin, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie.
  • 21 March 2016, Dubai: Mr André Vallini, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie
  • 20 May 2016: Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
  • 5 July 2016, Paris: Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
  • October 2016, Paris: Ms Amal Al Qubaisi, President of the Federal National Council
  • 2-3 December 2016, Abu Dhabi: Mr François Hollande, President of the French Republic

Economic relations

The UAE has become France’s second-largest export destination in the Gulf, accounting for €3.6 billion of French exports, but remained our fourth-largest global trade surplus in 2016.

The volume of bilateral trade stood at €4.66 billion in 2016, down 4.5% on the previous year. These figures make the UAE our second-largest trade partner in the Gulf, behind Saudi Arabia (€7.9 billion).

French exports to the UAE fell 5.9% in 2016, to €3.62 billion, the second consecutive annual fall in our sales to the Emirates, following the 6.3% drop in 2015. In 2016, the UAE received 31.7% of our sales to the Gulf region, becoming France’s second-largest export destination there, behind Saudi Arabia (36%), whereas it held first place in 2015. That is largely explained by the strong rise in French exports to Saudi Arabia over the period (31.7%). The drop in French exports, combined with a relatively stable flow of imports from the UAE, has led to a reduction in France’s structural trade surplus with the Emirates, which totalled €2.57 billion (-8.4% year-on-year) the previous year, representing our fourth-largest global surplus behind the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore. In 2016, the UAE was our 28ᵗʰ-largest customer and our 48ᵗʰ-largest supplier (21ˢᵗ and 47ᵗʰ respectively in 2015).

Our exports are balanced and diversified, whereas our imports are dominated by hydrocarbons.

  • Exports : 2016 was again marked by falling sales of aircraft, making them our second-largest export (€339 million, -23%), behind perfumes and cosmetics (€394 million, -5.8%). The export performance achieved by measurement equipment and instruments (€193 million, +94.3%) and pharmaceuticals (€174 million, +4%) did not suffice to stall the fall in total French exports, which remain strongly tied to the “Airbus factor”. The three largest export sectors share almost 70% of our sales: non-agrifood consumer goods represent 31% of the total (€1.12 billion, -3.2%), ahead of equipment goods (€1.02 billion, -10%), and transport equipment (€431 million, -22.8% year-on-year). Sales of agricultural and food products remained stable in 2016 (€405 million, -0.3%).
  • Imports: France’s imports from the UAE grew by 0.7% in 2016 to stand at an estimated €1.05 billion, after a 2% rise in 2015. The fall in our purchases of petroleum products, which represented 68% of our imports in 2015 (€713 million, -6.3%) has been compensated by an increase in our non-hydrocarbon imports (€336 million, +19.5%). Aluminium is our second-largest import from the UAE (€129 million, +29.3%), ahead of plastic materials (€34 million, +83%).

A growing French presence

The UAE is currently home to the largest number of establishments by French companies, with almost 600 (+10% growth per year), most of which are major CAC 40 companies which establish regional headquarters in Dubai.

In France, the UAE is the leading Gulf investor

The Emirates is the second-largest Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG) investor in France behind Qatar, with a Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stock of €1.13 billion in 2015, representing almost 35% of investment in France by Gulf countries. FDI from the UAE in France has been highly volatile over the last decade and has more than doubled (+130%) since 2014, but remains 4 times lower than the FDI received in 2013. In 2015, the UAE generated the largest flow of FDI to France from the Middle East, totalling €619 million and representing almost 90% of investment flow from the Gulf.

UAE investors have a minority or majority stake in about 50 companies in France (source: Orbis/Business France). UAE investments in France remain heavily focused on securities and real estate, either directly or via investment funds. Although modest compared to the UAE’s investment capacity, investment in industry has been growing since 2013. In 2014, France remained the second-largest destination in Europe for job-creating Emirati projects.

Educational, Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

France and the United Arab Emirates are putting in place two emblematic joint projects: Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and Louvre Abu Dhabi. Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi is the only French-speaking university in the Gulf, and awarded its first diplomas in May 2010. It is continuing to develop and has 800 students, of whom 25% are from the UAE. It initially focused on humanities and social sciences, before opening a BSc in mathematics and physics in 2013. It should soon offer quality vocational training for the oil industry, in association with Total, IFP Energies nouvelles and UTC Compiègne. The Louvre Abu Dhabi should, moreover, be opened soon. Its opening coincides with a Cultural Season, of which the first event was organized in Abu Dhabi on 16 March 2016. The first works acquired (more than 200 pieces from all periods and countries) were presented during a major exhibition in Abu Dhabi in April 2013, then in the Paris Louvre Museum from May-July 2014. The list of the 300 masterpieces on loan from French museums has been published.

Military cooperation

France is a major partner of the United Arab Emirates. Our cooperation is the most comprehensive and intense in the region, with a highly operational dimension thanks to the pre-positioned disposition of the French forces in the UAE (700 service members) and a wide variety of cooperation fields.

Updated: 25.04.17