Foreign trade performance for the first half of 2019
Thanks to the fact that exports were stronger than imports, our trade deficit in the first half of 2019 fell significantly over the year. The balance of goods and services showed a deficit of €9.4 billion, compared to €10 billion in the second half of 2018 and €15.8 billion in the first half of 2018. The deficit in goods as defined by the customs authorities fell to €26.9 billion compared to €27.3 billion in the previous half of the year and €32.1 in the first half of 2018. The deficit excluding energy and military equipment likewise fell (€13.7 billion compared to €18.7 billion in the first half of 2018) and fell to its lowest level since the second half of 2015.
With respect to services, the surplus increased compared to the first half of 2018 (€12.5 billion compared to €11.3 billion), offsetting the decline in the international trade surplus (€4.6 billion compared to €6.6 billion).
The current account balance improved compared to the first half of 2018, from - €10.3 billion to - €5.6 billion, bringing it closer to balance.
The energy bill, which represents more than two thirds of our foreign trade deficit , increased very slightly in the first half of 2019 to €23.4 billion (compared to €23.3 billion in the previous half of the year). Exports from the chemical and agri-food sectors reached record levels, thereby boosting their surplus. The shipbuilding industry performed very well thanks to the delivery of the vessel MSC Bellissima. There was also a significant increase in exports to Canada compared to the previous six months (+8.2 % to €1.9 billion). France’s trade surplus with America reached €4.4 billion, its highest level ever.
Improving our export performance is one of the government’s policy objectives, in keeping with the foreign trade strategy presented by the prime minister in February 2018 in Roubaix. In parallel to the government’s economic recovery policy, the reform of the export support mechanism is moving along at a good pace, under the auspices of Jean-Yves Le Drian and Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne. Thanks to a new partnership between the government and the regions, to the commitment of the founding members of the “Team France Export” (Business France, the chambers of commerce and industry and Bpifrance), French SMEs and mid-cap companies now have access to a one-stop shop in each region and 235 advisors specializing in international trade.
French firms now have access to the www.teamfrance-export.fr solutions platform, designed to build on the one-stop shops in the regions and specifically targeted at the 305,000 French firms that export little or not at all, in order to support them and simplify the first steps in the export process. In cooperation with the ministries concerned, the process of adapting sectors to compete in export markets is also progressing and is based on the new “France as a brand” approach defined at the beginning of 2019 to more effectively promote France’s image and appeal abroad. The public export support mechanism will continue to focus in particular on allowing firms to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the trade agreements, notably with Canada and Japan.
 Calculated based on the CIF/FOB trade balance including military equipment, which reached €34.5 billion.