PARIS – France saw a 14 percent spike in foreign arms exports and 5 times more imports last year compared to 2015, according to data from the Observatory of the Defense Economy, a think tank of the Ministry of Defence.

French exports totaled €8.3 billion (U.S. $9.2 billion) last year compared to €6.4 billion (U.S. $7.1 billion) from 2011 to 2016, a 3 percent increase. Imports, at €1.7 billion (U.S. $1.9 billion), increased by 2 percent from 2015 to 2016, the report said. 

Last year, an estimated 859 French companies were involved in arms shipments in 2016, of which the seven largest companies, Airbus, Dassault Aviation, DCNS, MBDA, Nexter, Safran and Thales, accounted for 83 percent of the value. Small, medium and intermediate size companies accounted for 17 percent of the shipments and supplied the seven largest companies for the domestic and foreign markets from 2016 to 2013. 

The European Union received 23 percent of France's exports last year, while Asia received 22 percent and Africa received 21 percent last year. Meanwhile, 40 percent of France's imports were from the EU, 32 percent from other European countries and 17 percent from the U.S., the report said

Of the total shipments, 25 percent were aircraft and satellites; 18 percent were jet engines nuclear reactors and boilers; and 17 percent were arms and ammunition. Egypt received the Rafale fighter, a multimission frigate and missiles, and Morocco took two spy satellites. 

France is reported to have sold an estimated €14 billion (U.S. $1.6 billion) in weapons last year, after hitting a peak of orders worth €16.9 billion (U.S. $1.9 billion) in 2015. The government has yet to publish the official report on 2016 export sales.