PARIS — French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly welcomed an official report that stated France won arms export orders last year worth €14 billion (U.S. $16 billion) and said she would pursue further deals with foreign clients.

That level of exports compared to 2015 foreign orders is worth a record €16.9 billion (U.S. $19.3 billion), falling short of over €20 billion (U.S. $22.8 billion) that was forecast in January.

A parliamentary report shows 2016 arms export orders hit €14 billion, which was "extremely encouraging," Parly said July 10 at her first news conference. "It remains for us to write new success stories on exports.

"I will also be very attentive to our defense industry, not just in terms of investment for our services, but also in terms of exports," she said. "Our defense industry is one of the high points of our economy, and like my predecessor, I will put exports in the most favorable context possible."

The parliamentary report was published July 7. Parly took up her post June 21.

Parly said she recently signed a letter of intent with her Belgian counterpart for Belgium to acquire vehicles from the French Army’s Scorpion modernization program, signaling a further export deal.

This would be an order for off-the-shelf vehicles rather than modified versions, which would boost the level of interoperability of the military, she said.

The French Ministry of the Armed Services said June 29 the agreement with Belgium covered procurement, research and development, training and maintenance, with cooperation between the French Direction Générale de l’Armement procurement office and its Belgian counterpart, the respective chiefs of staff, with a view to signing an intergovernmental agreement next year. The main armored vehicles are the Griffon multirole troop carrier and Jaguar reconnaissance and combat vehicle.

Political influence and operational experience of the French services were key factors in winning export orders, the parliamentary report on 2016 arms exports said.

"The involvement of the highest government authorities is decisive and fully justified by the fact that defense exports, cleared by the prime minister, is a political act rather than simply a purely commercial deal," the report said.

France is pursuing several export prospects in Asia and the Middle East, the leading regions for sales since 2012, the armed forces ministry said in a statement on the report. An estimated 10 to 20 percent of the sales raised by exports is invested in research and development, ensuring the advance of French technology and maintaining highly qualified jobs that could not be sent abroad, the ministry said.

A predecessor, Jean-Yves Le Drian, had forecast more than €20 billion (U.S. $22.8 billion) of orders for 2016 at his New Year’s greetings to the armed forces, based on Australia’s pick of Naval Group, formerly DCNS, to supply 12 ocean-going attack submarines.

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