Global Insider: The French Defense Industry

Brazil may be backing out of an expected fighter jet deal with France, while Russia opened an international tender for amphibious command vessels, a contract thought to be all but signed with France. In an e-mail interview, Jean-Pierre Maulny, deputy director of the Institut de Relations Internationales et Strategiques, discusses the current state of the French defense industry.

WPR: What have the French defense industry's export strengths been historically?

Jean-Pierre Maulny: Historically, exports represent about 33 percent of the French defense industry's total revenue, or about €5 billion per year. According to the French government, the trend for defense exports has been flat since the beginning of the decade, despite growth in global demand. France has gone from being the third-leading export country, after the United States and the U.K., to fourth (after those countries and Russia). Israel, Italy and even Germany are not far behind. For the past three years, the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy has been trying to improve the French defense industry's export performance. In 2008, it created an inter-ministerial committee to support civil and military export (CIACI), and there is now a "war room" dedicated to this issue at Elysée Palace. The efforts seem to have paid off, as the French Armament Directorate (DGA) stated that export orders for French defense equipment had climbed to around €8 billion in 2009.

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