The virtual halt in world trade caused an unprecedented decline in exports.
The masks weighed on our trade balance. Faced with the health crisis, imports (88% from China) exploded, reaching 3.6 billion euros between April and June. This is 35 times more than in 2019 over the same period. Other products such as disinfectants (+ 443%) or disposable gowns (+ 394%) saw their imports soar. Conversely, our sales abroad in pharmacies increased sharply at the start of the crisis. But the improvement did not last.
The hole is widening. In the first half of the year, the foreign trade deficit reached 34 billion euros, a record since the start of 2011. The health crisis has not only boosted purchases of medical equipment abroad; above all, it caused a collapse in exports, by 21.5%, “unprecedented since World War II,” Bercy specifies. The virtual halt in world trade was devastating, particularly in aeronautics (- 47%) and automobiles (- 42%). And the reduction in the oil bill of more than 8 billion euros compared to the first half of 2019 did not make it possible to compensate.
Old dependency and fragility
Admittedly, according to the government, this does not call into question “the trajectory of the structural gains of our foreign trade”, the increase in the number of exporters and the improvement of competitiveness. Other experts are more pessimistic, such as those from the General Directorate of Customs, who have just scanned the trade in pharmaceutical and medical products “linked to the fight against health crises”. Unpleasant conclusion: “The crisis has revealed a dependence and a more ancient fragility. If the health situation were to continue under the same economic conditions, the trade deficit of France would increase by 10 billion euros per year.”
Video: C8: heavy losses despite a savings plan (Capital)
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