Watch: The significance of the UAE President’s visit to France


ABU DHABI: The President of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, will visit France from July 18, marking his first official state visit outside the region after taking office in May .

The decades-old relationship between the UAE and France is set to get a big boost with this visit.

The last time Sheikh Mohamed met French President Emmanuel Macron was on May 15, when Macron traveled to Abu Dhabi to congratulate him and also to offer his condolences on the death of the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. . They also met last year – on December 3, when His Highness received Macron at Expo 2020 in Dubai, where France announced multi-billion euro deals and on September 15, when they discussed in Paris economic and cultural cooperation, in addition to the humanitarian fallout from the pandemic.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Image credit: WAM

Choice of France for the first State visit

“This is the first state visit since His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan took over the presidency of the United Arab Emirates – and France was chosen specifically because of the strategic relationship between the two nations,” said Dr. Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the President of the United Arab Emirates, during a press briefing last Friday.

“The relationship with France has shifted from military and defense to trade, culture, technology and the environment. This visit aims to deepen this subject as well as new areas such as sustainable energy, renewable energies and other energies of the future. It is also one of the priority areas of the president. France has always played a positive role in Middle Eastern and North African affairs,” he added.

The visit of the President of the United Arab Emirates to France must be seen in the context of a series of developments between the two countries in recent years.

UAE-France strategic dialogue

On June 2, the 14th session of the UAE-France strategic dialogue held in Abu Dhabi reflected on the “exceptional partnership” between the two countries and followed the guidelines set by the Emirati and French presidents during recent engagements.


The 14th session of the UAE-France strategic dialogue was held in Abu Dhabi on June 2.
Image credit: WAM

Within the framework of the ambitious 10-year bilateral roadmap of the UAE-France strategic partnership (2020-2030) adopted in June 2020, the meeting focused on strengthening key sectors of bilateral cooperation, such as the economy , trade and investment, oil and gas. , decarbonized hydrogen, nuclear and renewable energies, climate change, education, culture, health, artificial intelligence, food security, fintech, intellectual property rights, anti-money laundering and the fight against the financing of terrorism, space and cybersecurity.

The French side reaffirmed its attachment to the security partnership with the United Arab Emirates within the framework of the 2009 bilateral defense agreement, thus supporting regional stability. In this context, the UAE thanked France for its expression of solidarity and support, as well as its strong condemnation of the January terrorist attacks against civilian facilities in the UAE.

Reflecting on the major achievements of the past decade, the two parties reaffirmed their commitment to projects such as Louvre Abu Dhabi and Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi while sharing the ambition to further strengthen bilateral relations by identifying new joint objectives and initiatives.


The Louvre Abu Dhabi which attracts thousands of visitors every day.
Image Credit: Supplied

Trade between the UAE and France

In 2020, UAE exports to France amounted to $984 million, according to OEC data. The main exports were petroleum oils, aluminum, turbojets, turboprops and gas turbines. Over the past 25 years, UAE exports to France have grown at an annualized rate of 10.5%, from $81.8 million in 1995 to $984 million in 2020.

In 2020, French exports to the UAE amounted to $3.67 billion, and its main exports to the UAE were aircraft. Over the past 25 years, exports from France to the United Arab Emirates have increased by 4.51% per year, from $1.22 billion in 1995 to $3.67 billion in 2020.

600 French companies in the UAE

Last year, the United Arab Emirates agreed to buy 80 Rafale fighter jets from France as part of a 17 billion euro deal signed during Macron’s visit to the United Arab Emirates.


The French pavilion at EXPO 2020 Dubai.
Image credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Currently, more than 600 French companies operate in the UAE.

France is also one of the first foreign investors in the UAE. The stock of French FDI in the UAE amounted to 1.25 billion euros at the end of 2018.

French companies hold leading positions in several sectors (energy, water, hotels in particular). Total, present on the UAE market since 1939, is the leading French investor with numerous holdings (oil, gas, solar). Engie plays an important role in the country’s electricity production. EDF is participating with Masdar in the construction of the largest solar park in the world in Dubai. Suez is involved in seawater desalination. Veolia is involved in water treatment and energy efficiency. Accor is one of Dubai’s leading hotel operators. On the distribution side, Carrefour supermarkets and hypermarkets dot the country’s marketplaces.

Over the years, Bpifrance and Mubadala have also built a solid partnership.

During Macron’s official state visit to the United Arab Emirates, Mubadala announced the signing of two agreements aimed at facilitating investments in sectors of mutual interest and priority in France. These agreements were part of global economic agreements valued at more than 15 billion euros signed between Emirati and French companies.

In France, the UAE is the second largest investor among the Gulf countries with an FDI stock of 1.46 billion euros in 2018 (i.e. 25% of investments in the region). About fifty companies are partially or totally owned by Emirati capital in France.

Focus on education, people, culture

The United Arab Emirates and France attach great importance to education in their bilateral partnership. Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, INSEAD, Paris 2 and 42 Abu Dhabi are joined by EM Normandie and ESCP as French institutions with campuses or branches in the UAE.


Paris Sobourne University in Reem Island, Abu Dhabi.
Image Credit: Gulf News

About 35,000 French nationals currently live in the United Arab Emirates. There are seven accredited French schools with 10,000 students in the UAE and 60,000 students learn French in local schools.

The United Arab Emirates and France have a common priority to advance the Arabic language through a bilateral agreement with the Arab World Institute which promotes the “International Certificate of Proficiency in Arabic” (international certificate of proficiency in Arabic) , through the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center to assess Modern Standard Arabic proficiency in the UAE, considered an essential step in structuring and evaluating the quality of Arabic language education.

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An event at the Alliance Française in Oud Metha, Dubai. About 30,000 French nationals currently live in the United Arab Emirates.
Image Credit: Gulf News

Cultural and creative industries, museums, hotel management and agro-tech are also priority areas, as are partnerships in the health and space sectors.

Over the years, the UAE-France cultural dialogue has seen the implementation of ambitious initiatives and projects demonstrating the talents of creative youth, with the arts, artificial intelligence and the protection of endangered cultural heritage being also duly taken into account.


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