France, Saudi Arabia bound by special strategic partnership

François Gouyette, Ambassador of France.

François Gouyette,

Ambassador of France

Paris and Riyadh are bound by an historic relation. France opened its first Consulate in Jeddah in 1839 and since the meeting between Gen. de Gaulle and King Faisal in 1967 our bilateral relation has distinguished itself by political as well as personal high level contacts. This year, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of this memorable meeting.

Paris and Riyadh have sealed a long term special relation. The five-year term of François Hollande has strengthened the French-Saudi global strategic partnership, which President Emmanuel Macron intends to improve in order to identify new synergies with the bold plan for economic and social reforms backed and carried by the Crown Prince.

In this perspective, our two countries will develop, within the coming months, their cooperation in numerous fields: defense, peace and security, as well as energy, health, agriculture, education, culture, environment and tourism.

Our two friendly countries have always enjoyed a strong, close and confident relationship. Indeed, France and Saudi Arabia share broad convergence of views on major regional and international issues, as well as main challenges of the 21st Century. In that context, visits of French and Saudi senior political figures have sharply increased for the last years.

At the same time, members of the French Parliament and Majlis Al-Shoura have developed their relations through the French-Saudi friendship group. The scope, the dimension and the level of our bilateral relation reflect the close links between our both countries for the benefit of French and Saudi people.

The political relation between Paris and Riyadh has reached new heights. In light of this context, France and Saudi Arabia have a common ambition: ensure that their economic partnership is in line with their special political relation. In May 2015, the French President and the King of Saudi Arabia adopted an ambitious Action Plan to boost our relationship through a win-win approach.

Since then, France and Saudi Arabia have already held two joint committees. The 3rd joint Committee will focus on our mutual determination to strengthen the French-Saudi strategic partnership and deepen our special relationship through the improvement of our trade and the identification of new cooperation prospects within the framework the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 adopted by the Kingdom to implement the Saudi Vision 2030. The high French expertise must take part in this new era to be implemented by the Kingdom. The French government and private investors are eager to stand with people of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is a major economic and commercial partner for France in the Gulf region and in all the Middle East as well. According to the International Monetary Fund, with a volume of trade worth $8 billion in 2016, France is one of KSA’s top ten commercial partners in the world. Our trade relations cover fields as different as defense, energy, transport or tourism. In 2016, Saudi exports to France amounted EUR3.8 billion, whereas Saudi imports from France reached EUR4.1 billion.

France is a major importer of crude oil. With an average of 1.2 million of barrels a day in 2016, we are the 4th European importer of crude oil. However, our imports of crude oil have been slowly decreasing since 1998, due to our commitment into reinforcing energy efficiency, developing renewable energies and public transports. At the same time, the market share of Saudi oil in our imports has been regularly increasing for the last 10 years. In 2016, it represents 15% of our external supply of oil. I think it shows both the stability of our trade relations and the quality of Saudi oil products.

These strong links will keep strengthening in the next few months and years since French companies have established strong partnerships with Saudi actors. These players do not want to be only suppliers, but also actors of Saudi economic modernization. With more than $15 billion of French foreign direct investments (FDI) in Saudi Arabia, France is the 3rd biggest foreign investor in Saudi Arabia. Besides, French companies employ more than 27,000 people in Saudi Arabia, with a 36% average Saudization rate.

France is one of the most attractive countries for incoming foreign direct investments. Saudi investments in France cover fields as different as hotel industry, agro-food industry or real estate. According to INSEE, the French national statistics institute, 24 Saudi companies are operating in France. They employ approximately 3,200 people and have a consolidated turnover around EUR350 million. Including portfolio and residential real estate investments, Saudi investments in France amount around EUR1 billion. The French-Saudi Business Council is a key player to help reinforcing the volume of trade between our two countries.

Least but not last, the number of Saudi tourists in France is another indicator of the French-Saudi friendship relation. In 2016, the French Consulates in the Kingdom issued almost 130,000 visas, mostly within 48 hours and multiple-entry. Many of the most famous French tourist attractions are in the countryside, such as the viaduct of Millau, the Provence and Côte d’Azur region or some of the royal castles scattered along the Loire Valley. France is also the second destination worldwide for skiing.

Long Live the French-Saudi Friendship!