The Ministry of the Armed Forces made public, Wednesday, June 2, its annual report to Parliament on arms exports. A highly supervised exercise of transparency, in force for more than twenty years, but which provides an overview of French arms sales abroad, a sector in which France traditionally occupies the top of the table, and where it s is still hoisted, in 2020, to third place in the world.
With 4.9 billion euros in total exports in 2020, France is thus behind the United States (with 175 billion dollars, 143.6 billion euros) and Russia (around 50 billions of dollars). The overall amount of French exports is, however, down sharply compared to 2019, the year when Paris sold € 8.3 billion of arms abroad. A decrease which is largely explained by the health crisis.
Among the most salient elements of this report, Saudi Arabia leads buyers in 2020, with 703.9 million orders signed with the Wahhabi kingdom. Next come the United States, which imported in 2020 for 433.6 million euros of French armaments, then Morocco (425.9 million euros) and the United Kingdom (290 million euros).
Concretely, sales in Riyadh in 2020 mainly resulted in the export of air defense systems – “To protect yourself from drone attacks”, justified the spokesperson for the Ministry of the Armed Forces, Hervé Grandjean – and for underwater demining robots, Saudi Arabia considering itself exposed in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, due to tensions with Iran. These exports also include « munitions », said Mr. Grandjean, without providing more details.
Exports to the United States have mainly been linked to the sale of sonars, he explained. As for those to Morocco, these include air defense systems, Caesar guns and light tactical vehicles. A non-exhaustive list which the spokesperson for the ministry did not wish to reveal in full. With the United Kingdom, no large contract would have been signed, it is only components, it was specified, Wednesday.
As usual, the Ministry of the Armed Forces defends its arms export policy by insisting on its contribution to the vitality of the French economy (13% of industrial employment in France, i.e. 200,000 direct and indirect jobs ) and on sovereignty issues. A policy carried out “In the strictest respect for the requirements related to arms exports, in full compliance with our values and our international commitments”, insists in the preamble of the report the minister, Florence Parly.
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