A look at the swanky department stores in the luxury malls of Bangkok like a French presence advertisement in Thailand with high-end fashion like Chanel and Hermes. But it is less known that looking into Thailand’s factories will reveal a comparable number of French names.

On the 333rd anniversary of the Thai-French relations inauguration, French ambassador to Thailand Jacques Lapouge spoke to Khaosod English about the lesser-known presence of French trade, tourism, and even art in Thailand.

More than half of Thailand’s value-added imports from France are transportation equipment, such as Airbus aircraft, with the remainder going to industrial, mechanical, and agricultural machinery. Thailand sells to France industrial and agricultural products as well as fishery products.

Not Just Food

According to the IMF in April 2019, France has the seventh biggest GDP in the globe. Thailand exported trade worth € 2.8 billion in 2018 while importing nearly € 1.7 billion. France’s market share in Thailand, according to 2017 data, is 1.5 percent, which is smaller than Germany’s share (2.7 percent) but larger than the UK’s (1.2 percent).

Some familiar names are Michelin (the tire manufacturer and their food guide), the manufacturing of Saint-Gobain, Schneider Electric. And don’t forget about cosmetics such as hiso staples from L’oreal and Bangkokian such as Hermes, Chanel, Cartier, etc.

It’s not just coming in French products. Officially there are approximately 13,500 French expats in Thailand, although the actual number may be as high as 30,000 to 40,000 because not everyone has registered with the embassy.

Engagement and Disengagement

Thai-French diplomacy is also one of the more established with the Western globe: 2019 marks the 333rd anniversary of the first Siamese envoy’s visit to the tribunal of French monarch Louis XIV during King Narai’s reign in 1686. Recently, the embassy held an open house at the residence of the ambassador to celebrate the event.

Although France and the EU condemned the Thai coup in 2014 and suspended all contracts and visits, the ambassador said that there is now a complete return to collaboration.