France and Uruguay

Political relations

Our two countries maintain a close political, cultural and linguistic affinity. The 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).

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). It peaked in 2013 (€268 million) but fell to €254 million (-8%) in 2016. Our surplus saw a huge drop, down to €2 million in 2016 compared with €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 are falling, in particular in the automotive and pesticides sectors: €128 million in 2016, down from 2013 when they amounted to €207 million mainly due to the sharp increase in sales of agrochemicals and the tripling of exports of communication equipment. Our exports consist of perfume and toiletries, motor vehicles and accessories, mechanical equipment and industrial machinery.

Our imports have increased sharply since 2013 (€126 million in 2016 compared to €61 million in 2013), due to increased purchases of paper pulp.

France is one of the leading investors in Uruguay. Some sixty French companies operate in Uruguay, creating around 8000 jobs (L’Oréal, Danone-Salus, Accor-Sofitel, Bongrain, Faurecia). Our companies have invested heavily in the country in recent years (FDI stock of €435 million in 2015): 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 50 MW wind farm; Accor inaugurated the renovated Montevideo Casino Carrasco and Spa Hotel; and Air France resumed flights to Montevideo in 2013. Faurecia, one of the world’s leading automotive parts manufacturers, opened a plant in 2011, 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 training centre of excellence, and on research and mobility programmes (Amsud-Pasteur cooperation programmes, ECOS (policy and scientific cooperation evaluation programme), 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 agreement regarding scholarships, framework cooperation agreement involving the agricultural research institute INRA).

With around one hundred students (three quarters of whom are at Masters and Doctorate level) in French universities, France is the fifth-largest host country of Uruguayan students. The opening of a Campus France space in Montevideo and the launch of the “France alumni” platform in 2015 began a new trend towards French university courses. It was given a further boost following the signing of a “working holiday visa” agreement in February 2016 for the President of the French Republic’s visit to Uruguay (agreement implemented in August 2016).

We maintain intensive cultural cooperation. While the study of French is up against competition from English and Portuguese, over a thousand students attend Jules Supervielle high school in Montevideo, and Uruguay has a network of seven Alliance Française teaching centres. 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 2015. The French Embassy therefore awards a “label” to cultural activities which enjoys strong visibility in Uruguay. The Embassy encourages our cooperation in a variety of areas in collaboration with the Uruguayan authorities: contemporary creation, travelling exhibition of photographs of paintings from the Louvre Museum, training of artists.

Updated: 16 May 2017