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The eco brief. France’s trade deficit is widening


Cintainers on a boat in the port of Le Havre (Seine-Matitime). Illustrative photo. (CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

Between January and March, our trade deficit reached 15 and a half billion euros according to figures communicated by customs. This is three billion more than the previous quarter, which means that we have again lost market share in the global economy.

Among the causes, there is the energy bill: we imported more energy, the cost of which has increased with the rise in oil prices. And then, a sign of the times: with the rise of teleworking, our imports of computers and printers have soared (+ 13%). Communication and telephone equipment by nearly 10%. At the same time, the growth of our exports has slowed down markedly, penalized in particular by the aeronautics and automotive sectors, which are usually our two main vectors of exports. Trade flows have not returned to their pre-crisis level.

Our trade balance has deteriorated with Asia but not with America thanks to our exchanges with Mexico. What can we learn from this? The real conclusion today is rather vague. In the first quarter, France again lost market share just as the recovery was showing its nose. Is this a cyclical air hole or a deeper problem of the competitiveness of the French product? Products that are too expensive in relation to their quality (the eternal debate about mid-range manufacturing); is the crisis strengthening global competition and France struggling to place itself in the race? For what reasons ? Observation of the next few months will tell. It is certain that the aid put in place by the government avoided the catastrophe in terms of layoffs in exporting companies in particular.

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