Eco Brief

French exports: if only one should remain...


The dynamism of French exports has noticeably slowed over the past few months. Although exports over the first 9 months of the year are EUR 14 billion higher than those recorded over the same period in 2022, most of this gain was achieved in Q1. Over Q2 and Q3, the cumulative increase in exports was limited to EUR 1 billion (compared to Q2 and Q3 2022), with aeronautical exports (+5.5 billion) leading the increase.

September confirmed the reduction in the trade deficit, which now stands at just EUR 86 billion cumulatively over 9 months compared to 126 billion over the same period in 2022, mainly due to an improvement in the energy balance. Another factor of support is aeronautical exports, which benefit from a strong order book. With the automotive sector, the aeronautical sector has seen a clear recovery in activity since the beginning of 2023. In terms of volume, transport equipment accounted for 75% of the increase in exports of goods and services between the first 9 months of 2022 and the equivalent period in 2023.

However, when analysing the French trade balance (in nominal terms), the dynamism of aeronautics appears increasingly isolated. In Q2 and Q3 2023, aeronautical exports reached 84% of the level seen over the same quarters of 2019, compared to 65% in 2022 and 58% in 2021. And while aeronautical exports grew by EUR 5.5 billion cumulatively in Q2 and Q3 2023 y/y, French exports only increased by 1 billion. In Q3, exports contracted by EUR 3 billion y/y to Italy and 1.3 billion to Germany.

The gradual upturn in aeronautical exports could eventually be penalised by obstacles hindering a more pronounced ramp-up: at 7% on average between mid-2022 and mid-2023, the proportion of French companies in other transport equipment (aeronautical, rail, naval) reporting that a labour shortage is limiting their production increased to 34% on average in H2 2023, according to the European Commission.

Stéphane Colliac