PARIS — Major orders from India and Malaysia helped lift French arms exports to a value of 6.5 billion euros ($8.4 billion) last year, according to a parliamentary report published Nov. 22.
The total, a 27 percent increase in value terms from 2010, ensured France remained the world’s fourth-biggest exporter, behind the U.S., Russia and Britain.
Between 2006 and 2011, France’s Defence Ministry estimates that the U.S. had 44 percent of the world market, Russia 14 percent, Britain 11 percent, France 8.5 percent and Israel 5.5 percent.
The Asia-Pacific region took 42 percent of French exports last year, buoyed in particular by a contract with India for the modernization of 51 French-built Mirage 2000 fighter jets and an order from Malaysia for parts for armored vehicles.
Over the past five years, the Middle East has been France’s most important market, accounting for 26 percent of orders, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates the leading purchasers.
The report underlines that France’s market share is likely to come under attack from emerging rivals.
“China, Brazil, South Africa and, of course, India all want to enter the club of major exporters,” it says.
The report also notes that South Korea has set a target of 3 billion euros in sales for 2012, an objective which, if met, would put it sixth in the table of exporters.
France’s defense sector supports 165,000 jobs, and with domestic spending being cut, exports are increasingly important for a sector that has strategic importance for the country’s industrial base, the report states.
Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is drawing up a plan to support small and medium-sized defense companies which will notably simplify the process of obtaining licenses for arms exports. But the government said it would remain vigilant with regard to the arms trade.