2023 was a year of significant upheavals. The continuing war in Ukraine, the conflict in Gaza, affecting the stability of the region as far as the Red Sea, and renewed economic and technological competition between the United States and China were all factors of complexity and instability that affected global trade.
Against this destabilized international background, characterized by a reduction in demand and persisting trade tensions, the successes of France’s foreign trade are all the more noticeable.
Indeed, the trade balance improved by €63 billion over the year, falling below the threshold of -€100 billion in 2023. This upturn was largely driven by a sharp reduction in France’s energy bill (-€47 billion).
Falling energy prices led to a decline in the value of goods imports (-7% compared to 2022), while exports rose slightly (+1.5%).
But this improved result is not only linked to the energy factor. Excluding energy and military equipment, the balance also improved by €19 billion and stood at -€54 billion, driven in particular by dynamic exports in the aerospace and textile sectors.
The trade balance in services saw a further surplus of €31 billion that year, thanks to tourism and financial services performing well. Transport services, however, went back into deficit after unprecedented surpluses linked to rising freight prices.
In total, therefore, the current account deficit partially improved, standing at -€34 billion in 2023 compared to -€54 billion in 2022.
Over and above the effects of variations in foreign trade prices, the contribution of foreign trade to growth in terms of volume became clearly positive (+0.6 points compared to -0.6 points in 2022).
In an ever more competitive environment, France’s market share increased in 2023, reaching 2.7% of the global trade in goods in the third quarter.
The number of French exporters continued to rise over the 12 months, amounting to 146,200 companies in the third quarter of 2023 (80% of them with fewer than 20 employees).
For the fourth consecutive year, France was Europe’s most attractive country for foreign investors. A new record was set by the 1,259 foreign investment projects registered.
These results confirm a strong belief, reaffirmed tirelessly by the Government since 2017, that in a world of crises which make diversifying customers and markets essential, exporting is not a risk but a necessity, to help create added value and jobs in our country.
The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs will continue his action, within the Government and in conjunction with foreign trade departments, operators and stakeholders, with a view to encouraging businesses to engage at international level and supporting them in an accessible, transparent and effective way. This is the purpose of the Osez l’Export (dare to export) plan unveiled on 31 August 2023 and already being deployed throughout our country. It should enable us to increase the number of exporting companies to 200,000 by 2030, with a special effort to support those directly taking part in the major sectoral priorities of France 2030. Finally, the plan envisages a series of measures aimed at developing an export culture in our country, with a specific emphasis on the integration of our overseas territories into their regional basins, in Latin America and the Indo-Pacific.
See the report in French here: Foreign trade report (7 February 2024)