France, GCC meet amid 18 billion euro trade balance
PARIS: The French capital hosts today the Third French-GCC Forum to discuss prospects of enhancing mutual trade exchanges, estimated at euro 18 billion in 2015. Conferees are scheduled to discuss during the day-long forum, to be held at headquarters of the French-Arab Chamber of Commerce, mutual investments and commercial cooperation.
The event will involve two workshops, themed “role of sovereign funds and funding organizations in financing small and medium enterprise,” and “the French-Gulf cooperation in health and pharmaceuticals.”
France enjoys sold economic ties with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. The European nation plays a key and dynamic role at the regional and international levels, with 40 percent of the globe petroleum reserves and produces 30 percent of the world daily output of consumed oil. Moreover, its annual growth rates are higher than those posted in other member States of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
According to records of the French-GCC Chamber of Commerce, GCC exports to the European nation grew by 17 percent, in 2015, reaching euro 18 billion, with a surplus in favor of France exceeding euro four billion. Although the French-GCC commercial exchanges have been negatively affected with bearish oil prices, Paris is seeking to boost the economic and trade cooperation with the Gulf countries in various sectors, namely infrastructure.
As to the French economic ties with the State of Kuwait, the French Foreign Ministry records showed that the bilateral trade exchanged rose 31 percent, in 2015, reaching euro 1.7 billion, against euro 1.3 billion in 2014, thus transforming the trade exchanges’ deficit, recorded at euro 257 million, into a surplus valued at euro 510 million.
The French-GCC cooperation at this level climbed due to sales of aircraft and transport equipment, estimated at euro 733 million last year, compared to euro 114 million in 2014. France delivered to Kuwait the second batch of Airbus planes in 2015, in line with a euro 1.3 billion deal signed in 2013. France ranked 10th among exporting countries to Kuwait, in 2014, after Germany, South Korea, Indian and Italy.
It is also the 13th among the countries that import oil from Kuwait — 97 percent of the Kuwaiti exports to the European country, according to figures by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). France’s imports from Kuwait noticeably dropped in 2015, amounting to euro 604 million compared to euro 754 million in 2014, dropping by 20 percent, largely due to the oil prices’ crisis. Although the French stake in the Kuwaiti market dropped in the first decade of the 21st century, it had remained at three percent since 2014, compared to 6.3 percent in 1994.
Turning to the French-Saudi economic ties, the cooperation has recently grown. Regional tension since 2011 has helped in boosting Paris’ import of the Saudi crude oil making up for stoppage of imports from Libya and slow rise of exports from Iraq, in addition to the deficit in the French trade balance, amounting to euro 2.6 billion in 2013.
Although the French-Saudi exchanges dropped in 2015, reaching some euro eight billion compared to euro 12 billion in 2014, the Kingdom has remained the top commercial partner for France in the Gulf and the second at the Middle East level.
Saudi official figures showed that Paris was the eighth commercial partner for the Kingdom in 2015, where the commercial exchanges accounted to 2. 6 percent of the Kingdom’s external exchanges.
France ranked the 10th among importing nations from Saudi Arabia in 2015, where value of the Kingdom’s exports amounted to some euro four billion, while French imports reached five billion, covering oil, infrastructure, nuclear energy and defense.
For its part, the UAE is France’s main market in the Gulf. The GCC country came fourth among nations that bolstered the French commercial surplus in 2015. It is the second after Riyadh among the Gulf commercial partners for France. UAE took 30.7 percent of French sales in the Gulf last year, slightly dropping by seven percent compared to 37.7 percent in 2014. French exports to the UAE amounted to euro 3.8 billion in 2015, in contrast to euro 1.09 billion worth of UAE imports the same year.
Consumer goods, except for agricultural products, top the list of French exports to the UAE, accounting to 30.2 percent, followed by manufactured commodities, 29.05, transport equipment, 5.14 percent, which dropped by 54.4 percent in 2014 reaching 28.5 percent.
UAE oil products topped the Gulf country’s exports to France in 2015, accounting to 74 percent, euro 808.5 million, rising by 11.5 percent as compared to 2014, followed by aluminum, euro 99 million. UAE investments in France constitute up to 40 percent of businesses from the Middle East. They were valued at euro 4.9 billion in 2013 compared to euro 1.6 billion in 2012. Most of the UAE investments are in stocks, bonds and property.
As to Qatar, France’s trade exchange with the Gulf country rose by two billion euros in 2015 compared to one billion euro in 2010. French exports to Qatar are forecast to soar to the highest level since 10 years ago, buoyed by a 300 percent hike in the first eight months of 2015, reaching euro 1.58 billion, including euro 463 million worth of exports of manufactured commodities-except for aerial equipment. French enterprises in Qatar noticeably rose in the past years, particularly in aerial industries, water treatment, construction and armament. Number of French companies operating in Qatar reached 294, including 66 firms with full French ownership and 228 ones in partnership with the Qataris. France is a key investment market for Qatar. Bulk of the Qatari businesses are in stocks, property and luxurious hotels.
Bahrain and Oman
France’s exports to Bahrain rose, in 2013, by 70 percent after delivery of two Airbus aircraft, worth euro 111 million, to Manama. Total French exports to Manama reached 235 million euros. Last April, the Bahraini Economic Development Council declared that the trade balance amounted to some euro 240 million, compared to euro 180 million in 2012.
Oil and aluminum constitute bulk of the Bahraini exports to France.
The balance of trade between France and Oman was at euro 700 million during the past decade. The exchanges rose in 2013 to euro 584.5 million but stabilized in 2015 at euro 518 million. — KUNA