PARIS – France’s weapons export in 2018 were worth €9.1 billion ($10.27 billion), up 30 percent compared to 2017, making last year “one of the best figures of these past 20 years,” according to Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly. This figure keeps France in the top three arms exporters globally after the United States and Russia.

Parly explains in the foreword to a report prepared for the French parliament that “this result is the consequence of the European twist we have given to our export policy.” In 2018, 25 percent of France’s arms exports were destined for its European partners against an average 10 percent in previous years.

The report notes that “these results were obtained in the context of particularly strong competition with the confirmation of US supremacy and the emergence of new major exporters (notably China).”

The whole of the second chapter details the procedures to grant export licenses and the nation’s responsibility as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, as a major arms exporter and a nuclear power. The government has been heavily criticized over the past months by both non-government organizations and political opponents who say that some of the weapons sold to Saudi Arabia could be used against civilians in the war in Yemen.

But President Emmanuel Macron said in early May that “there is a committee that manages these exports, under the authority of the prime minister, where, in fact, things have been toughened these past few years and where we demand guarantees that these weapons cannot be used against civilians. This [guarantee] has been obtained.”

France’s five major clients of 2018 were Qatar ($2.7 billion) including Rafale fighter jets and 28 NH-90 helicopters, Belgium ($1.27 billion) for 382 Griffon and 60 Jaguar armored vehicles, Saudi Arabia ($1 billion) including patrol vessels, and Spain ($658 million) for 23 NH-90 helicopters.

The other major clients for France in 2018 were India ($462 million) and Thailand ($363 million), followed by Egypt ($324 million), Argentina ($307 million), Kuwait ($300 million), United Arab Emirates ($216 million), Uzbekistan ($214 million), the United States ($178 million), Italy ($130 million), Indonesia ($129 million) and the United Kingdom ($126 million).

However, if one takes into account all the smaller contracts signed with other European Union member states, sales to Europe accounted for a total of nearly $2.6 billion, up from $579 million in 2017, in second place behind sales to the Near and Middle East, which totaled $5.5 billion, up from $4.4 billion in 2017.

Christina Mackenzie was the France correspondent for Defense News.

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