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Map of France

Map of France.
flag of the French Republic.


Bilateral relationship

New Zealand’s relationship with France is one of our most long-standing and vibrant, spanning the full range of bilateral contact including defence, trade, science, customs, tourism, education, culture and sport. War time links provide an enduring bond, and a love of rugby is an important contemporary link.  It is a modern partnership, founded on a shared history and common values, including support for the rule of international law, the principles of democracy, freedom, human rights, and good governance.  Our mutual respect for these values and determination to uphold them make us natural partners in multilateral forums.

Shared interests in the Pacific are an important feature of the relationship, including cooperation on maritime surveillance, disaster relief and development, and broader political dialogue on the integration of the French Pacific territories into the region.  France is a Forum Dialogue Partner and participated in the Pacific Islands Forum in Palau in July 2014.

We value France as an influential member of the European Union with a voice on issues of importance to us and we have welcomed French support for the Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation. This is a treaty-level agreement which will underpin the bilateral political relationship.

There are significant trade and investment ties. France is a strong and high value market for New Zealand. It is our 14th largest trading partner and the 3rd largest in Europe after the UK and Germany. With total bilateral trade for the 2013 year amounting to just over $1.2 billion, trading patterns have remained healthy despite a challenging economic environment in Europe. Agricultural commodities (sheepmeat, venison, wine, kiwifruit, apples, butter) and seafood (fish and shell fish) dominate our merchandise exports to France but there are new opportunities in high tech areas and high-end food and beverage.  The main imports from France are aircraft, pharmaceuticals, vehicles, machinery, beverages, cosmetics and electronic devices.  The delivery of Eurocopter’s NH-90 helicopters to the NZDF is boosting the import total.

French companies are significant investors in New Zealand. Investment in New Zealand in 2011 stood at NZ$238 million. About half of France’s investment in New Zealand is in the “manufacturing” category (notably wine), and the remainder divided between the real estate (hotel) and services sectors. French company Thales won the contract for Auckland’s integrated transport ticketing system.  Over 50 French companies have set up or bought into operations in New Zealand.  New Zealand companies are making inroads into the French market for example in niche high-tech areas (banking software, healthcare software, telecommunications) and in high-end food and beverage.
France is a fast growing source of tourists, with just under 25,000 arrivals in the year to July 2013. The number of young French people arriving under the working holiday scheme has risen from 115 in 2000 to 6,943 in 2014, with a cumulative total of over 20,000 since the scheme’s inception.  France is also a popular destination for New Zealanders, with 14,500 New Zealanders travelling there in 2012.
A Customs MoU with France was signed in December 2013 to help facilitate law enforcement cooperation. New Zealand Customs has invested in French-made “Smartgate” technology for airport passenger processing, making our passenger experience one of the most modern in the world.  Other border enforcement agencies are keen to see what New Zealand has put in place.

Education is an area of strengthening ties.  France is one of the top 20 source countries of international students for New Zealand, and second in Europe, with 2,276 students in 2013.  70% are studying in private training establishments, the majority of those in English language courses.  In the university sector, half of the 300+ students study at Bachelor’s level and almost a quarter complete PhDs. There are smaller numbers studying in schools, institutes of technology and polytechnics. For our part, French is still the most popular foreign language in NZ schools. In September 2013, New Zealand and France concluded negotiations on an Education Cooperation Arrangement and in November 2013, Universities NZ signed an MoU with its French counterpart France’s efforts to upskill its public school English language teachers, and its decision to make language teaching mandatory in all primary schools could present commercial opportunities, particularly with the French territories.

Defence is another area of bilateral cooperation. New Zealand and France are likeminded on a range of political and security issues, and have strong ongoing defence cooperation in the Pacific and in other theatres such as Afghanistan.  In May 2014, New Zealand signed a Status of Forces Agreement with France to further facilitate defence cooperation, particularly in the Pacific. There are strong ties in research, science and technology including the Dumont d’Urville Programme established in 2005, under which France and New Zealand jointly fund collaborative projects in biotechnology and nanotechnology.  A growing field of research and commercial collaboration is viticulture and oenology. NIWA recently signed an MoU with a consortium of 17 New Caledonia-based French research institutions for closer cooperation in the South Pacific.

Vibrant cultural links include more than 40 years of the Katherine Mansfield literary fellowship in Menton and the 2011 E Tu Ake exhibition at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris.  A particular focus for our cultural diplomacy was the repatriation of 16 Toi Moko (tattooed Maori heads) from French national collections.  This return was marked by ceremonies in Rouen in 2011, in Paris in 2012 and at Te Papa.  The repatriation required France to change its legislation, which it did in 2010.

The centenary of the First World War during the period 2014-18  will put our shared war history at the centre of our interactions with the French Government in Paris, with the towns of Le Quesnoy and Longueval and other significant sites on the Western Front.  The Western Front Heritage Trail, currently under development, will be integral to this commemorative period. The New Zealand-France Friendship Fund was established in 1991 to promote contact between French people and New Zealanders after the Rainbow Warrior incident.  It provides annual grants for a range of initiatives including cultural, literary, educational, culinary, business, school and sporting exchanges.  The Fund is administered by a Joint Board (three New Zealanders and three French).

In addition to the Prime Minister’s visit (his second) in 2013, there has been a steady flow of Ministerial level visits from New Zealand to France.  Recent visitors include Ministers English, Groser, Parata, Coleman, and Finlayson.  There are fewer Ministerial visits in the other direction, the most recent being a visit by France’s Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Kader Arif, who is responsible for the First World War Centenary planning

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Key facts


Land Area Metropolitan France - 547, 030 2km
Population 65.8 million (2014 estimate for metropolitan France)
Capital City Paris
Languages French


Political system Under the Constitution of 28 September 1958: a President, elected by popular vote for a five-year term; a bicameral National legislature; a Prime Minister appointed by the President; a Council of Ministers appointed by the President on the Prime Minister's recommendation
National legislature Senate of 343 members, voted by electoral college for a nine-year term, one-third being renewed every three years. National Assembly of 577 members elected by popular vote for a five-year term
Last election Presidency, National Assembly in 2012
Next election Presidency, National Assembly in 2017
Head of State President François Hollande
Head of Government Prime Minister Manuel Valls (since March 2014)


New Zealand Trade (year ended December 2013)

France is New Zealand's 14th largest trading partner


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French economy

France has experienced the fourth lowest GDP per capita growth in the OECD over the past 20 years with French firms now facing a ‘competiveness crisis’ vis-a-vis Germany - and increasingly Spain and Greece. Unemployment is running at 11% with youth unemployment at 25%  Economic growth of  0.1% is predicted for 2013, though France did post 0.5% for Q2.

The government’s major priority is to sustain the industrial base of the French economy, against accelerating deindustrialisation and loss of investment in France. Broader improvements in competiveness will depend on the government’s efforts under way to ease some of the constraints on France’s labour market. 

Political system

France’s political system comprises a President elected for a five year term, who selects a Prime Minister who in turn chooses the Cabinet. The Prime Minister manages the day to day running of the Government, while the President leads France’s international engagement, gives strategic oversight to domestic policy and is Commander-in-Chief, with the power to take defence decisions personally.  The Socialist Party holds a majority of its own in the National Assembly, but relies on coalition partners to control the Senate.

President François Hollande of the Socialist Party was elected in May 2012 for a five year term. Hollande argued for more emphasis on economic stimulus and less on austerity.


New Zealand Ministerial Visits to France

French Ministerial visits to New Zealand

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New Zealand is represented in France by:

New Zealand Embassy Paris, France [external link]

France is represented in New Zealand by:

Embassy of the French Republic Wellington

Travel advice

The Safetravel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to France [external link].

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 18 February 2015 10:57 NZDT