French PM to make historic visit in PH

Posted at 10/16/2012 11:07 AM | Updated as of 10/16/2012 5:05 PM

MANILA, Philippines – French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault will undertake an official visit to the Philippines from October 19 to 21, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Tuesday.

The DFA said this is the first time that a French prime minister will visit the country since diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1947. Ayrault will be accompanied by a 130-member delegation, comprised of ministers, parliamentarians and businessmen.

France's Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault delivers a speech during a visit at the Technology Research Institute Jules Verne in Bouguenais near Nantes, western France, October 15, 2012. / REUTERS

"Prime Minister Ayrault's visit does not only represent a milestone event in Philippine-French relations. More importantly, it sends a strong signal that France has taken serious notice of the positive developments in the country, and is ready to earnestly engage the Philippines as a vibrant and dynamic partner," the DFA said.

"Through the theme: 'Enhancing Philippine-French relations through political, economic and cultural cooperation,' we are confident that the visit of Prime Minister Ayrault will infuse renewed dynamism to our bilateral ties and propel our partnership to greater heights."

The DFA said the three-day visit will be highlighted by a meeting in Malacañang between the French Prime Minister and President Benigno S. Aquino III, who will reciprocate the honor bestowed on his mother, former President Aquino, when she visited France in 1989.

Both leaders are expected to exchange views on moving bilateral relations forward, as well as on regional and multilateral issues.

The Philippine-French Business Forum will also be held on October 20, second day of Ayrault's visit. The DFA said during the forum, several business contracts will be signed and announced. The members of the French business delegation represent global players in various sectors like energy, aviation and aeronautics, transportation, infrastructures, electronics, healthcare and environment.

Economic relations between the two countries are strong and steadily growing. Total bilateral trade amounted to US$1.143 billion in 2011. At the same time, French investments in the Philippines registered a significant increase in 2011 with total approved investments of Php 1.145 billion, up by 90% compared to the previous year.
Prime Minister Ayrault will end his visit in Cebu where he will witness a presentation on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

The DFA said there are currently around 50,000 Filipinos in France and 4,000 French in the Philippines. Most Filipinos in France are engaged in the services sector and skilled professionals. In 2011, Filipinos in France remitted a total of US$51.3 million.

Aside from the economic gains expected in the French leader's visit, the DFA said the country will also be given a chance to showcase its culture to the French people with the signing of an agreement on the holding of the grand exhibition "Philippines - Art of Exchange" at the Musée du Quai Branly, the premier museum in France for indigenous art and culture, from April 9 to July 21, 2013 in Paris.

"The exhibition will put the Philippines in the cultural map of France and is expected to attract thousands of French, European, and international visitors, as well as generate wide media exposure," the DFA said.