Baku, Azerbaijan, May 14
By Ellada Khankishiyeva - Trend:
French President Francois Hollande's visit to Azerbaijan has even more strengthened the two countries' bilateral relations in economy.
Azerbaijan has always been one of the important economic partners of France in the South Caucasus. There are over 50 French companies in Azerbaijan - they have implemented joint projects worth over $1 billion.
Last year, the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and France totalled $1.56 billion, while in the Q1, 2014 this figure was over $370 million - moreover the figure grew by more than 50 percent compared the same period of last year.
And for these figures, France is one of the five trade partners of Azerbaijan. France also ranks seventh in terms of exports of its products to Azerbaijan.
The main cooperation areas between Azerbaijan and France include: the development of ties in the field of solid waste management, food industry, agriculture, transportation, telecommunications, information technologies, tourism, construction and other fields.
The corresponding agreements on these areas have already been signed.
In particular, some 11 documents worth $2-2.5 billion were signed as part of the Azerbaijani-French Business Forum held in Baku, which was attended by Azerbaijani and French Presidents - Ilham Aliyev and Francois Hollande.
A total of 45 agreements and various documents have been signed between the two countries thus far - 17 of them are related to the economic cooperation.
France and Azerbaijan are cooperating, including within the EU Eastern Partnership programme, which is aimed at facilitating the further growth of mutual investments of the participating countries, and helps to establish and maintain the stability.
French investments in Azerbaijan's non-oil sector totalled $200 million, or 1.9 percent of total foreign investments in the country's non-oil sector.
During the business forum the French investors showed interest in projects in such fields as transportation, water management, space industry, joint work of industrial parks and other areas of the non-oil sector and this instils the confidence in a multiple growth of this indicator.
In general, the French investments to Azerbaijan totalled $2.4 billion, some $2.2 billion out of this being invested in the oil industry projects.
Azerbaijan's growing importance as a reliable partner in Europe's energy security enhances the interest of French companies in this area even more.
The President of France, Francois Hollande previously said there are many French oil and gas companies which want to join the oil and gas projects of Azerbaijan in the future and to conduct joint activities.
In particular, GDF Suez and Total companies intend to continue expanding their activities at the Absheron field and multiply the size of investments.
Azerbaijan, in turn, has accepted the French companies' offer on the experience exchange and investment cooperation.
In particular, President Ilham Aliyev stressed that Azerbaijan remains the leader among other the Caspian region countries in terms of supply of its energy resources to the world markets, including Europe.
"Naturally, the energy security issues have become the issues of national security of each country," Azerbaijani president said.
Thus, the energy cooperation between Azerbaijan and France has further expanded and entered a new stage of its development given the increasing role of Azerbaijani hydrocarbons as an important element of European energy security.
The visit was also fruitful in terms of the exchange of views on the future cooperation between France and Azerbaijan in other industries.
Both parties expressed satisfaction with the state of bilateral cooperation as well as the need to intensify the ties in all spheres.
So, amid rising global demand for hydrocarbons, Azerbaijan's new status as a strong player in the energy sector has not gone unnoticed by the world community, thus leading to the rise interest of many countries' and particularly those of Europe.
Ellada Khankishiyeva is the head of analytical center at Trend Agency