France and Uruguay


Political relations

Our two countries maintain a close political, cultural and linguistic affinity. Uruguayan government has been inspired by the French model (secularism, Napoleonic Code, education system), exported by strong French immigration: at the end of the 19th century, the French community accounted for almost one-third of the country’s population. Our relations, however, were put on hold during the military rule (1973-1985) during which France welcomed many exiles.

Official visits from France to Uruguay: Mr Édouard Courtial, Minister of State for French Nationals Abroad (December 2011); Ms Yamina Benguigui, Minister Delegate for Francophonie (May 2013); Mr Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of Paris (December 2013); Mr Jean-Pierre Bel, Personal Envoy of the President of the French Republic for Latin America and the Caribbean (inauguration of President Tabaré Vázquez on 1 March 2015); Mr François Hollande, President of the French Republic (25 February 2016).

Official visits from Uruguay to France: Mr Álvaro Garcia, Minister of Economy and Finance, in 2010; Mr Ricardo Ehrlich, Minister of Education and Culture, in 2012, 2013 and 2014; Mr Luis Almagro, Minister of External Relations (June 2014); official visit by President Tabaré Vázquez (October 2015).

Economic relations

Our bilateral trade has increased significantly in recent years (up 79% from 2008 to 2013). After experiencing a slight drop, trade climbed to €276 million in 2017. Our decreasing surplus stood at €47 million in 2018 (as opposed to €146 million in 2013). Uruguay ranks eighth among our Latin American trading partners and our bilateral trade accounts for 1.7% of our trade in the region.

Our exports stood at €172 million in 2018 and mainly consist of fragrances and toiletries, motor vehicles and accessories, mechanical equipment and industrial machinery.

Our imports have risen rapidly since 2013 (€125 million in 2018 as opposed to €61 million in 2013) due to the increase in pulp purchases.

France is one of Uruguay’s leading investors. Around 60 French companies are working in Uruguay, employing some 8,000 people (L’Oréal, Danone-Salus, Accor-Sofitel, Bongrain, Faurecia, Bull, Lactalis, Casino, Air Liquide, Akuo Energy, Louis Dreyfus Commodities, PSA) (€136 million in French foreign direct investment in 2016). In March 2012, Total was awarded a license for oil exploration and production in Uruguayan waters, but withdrew in August 2016. Akuo Energy is developing a 142 MW wind farm. Accor inaugurated the renovated Montevideo Casino Carrasco. Faurecia, one of the world’s leading automotive parts manufacturers, opened a plant in 2011. PSA recently inaugurated a utility vehicle assembly line; and Alstom helped build the electric interconnection with Brazil at the Melo site.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Our very high-level scientific cooperation is centred on the Pasteur Institute of Montevideo (IPM), a medical research and prestigious training centre, and on research and mobility programmes (Amsud-Pasteur and ECOS cooperation programmes, etc.). It was boosted recently with the signing of a cooperation agreement between our Academies of Sciences in March 2014 and an agreement between the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the National Research and Innovation Agency.

The visit to France by President Vázquez in October 2015 was an opportunity to significantly strengthen academic and research cooperation (agreement on mutual recognition of qualifications, Campus France mobility agreement for Uruguayan scholarship holders, INRA framework agreement).

With nearly 100 Uruguayan students enrolled in French universities (three-quarters of them in Master’s and PhD programmes), France ranks fifth among countries welcoming Uruguayan students. Building on the opening of a Campus France office in Montevideo and the launch of the France Alumni platform in 2015, French university programmes are gaining ground. This was furthered by the signature a working holiday visa agreement in February 2016 when the President of the Republic of Uruguay visited (entered into force August 2016).

We maintain intensive cultural cooperation. While the study of French suffers from competition with English and Portuguese, over a thousand students attend the Jules Supervielle Lycée in Montevideo and Uruguay has a network of seven Alliance Française branches. A policy on the resumption of the teaching of French was formalized by the signing of a joint declaration by the French and Uruguayan Presidents in October 2017. To support these commitments, France has assigned an international expert to work with the Administrative Education Authority (ANEP) as part of the digital Plan Ceibal.

The French Embassy awards a special label to cultural activities which is well known in Uruguay. It encourages our cooperation in a wide range of areas in collaboration with Uruguayan authorities: contemporary creation, travelling exhibition of photographs of paintings from the Louvre Museum, and the training of artists.

From March to June 2019, the National Museum of Visual Arts of Montevideo is holding a Picasso exhibition, the first of its scale held in Latin America.

Updated: March 2019