The question of exports, the sword of Damocles of Franco-German programs?

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The German request regarding the suspension of exports of Defense equipment to Saudi Arabia from European countries immediately awakened strong concerns in Paris, vis-à-vis Franco-German programs, such as FCAS and MGCS.

Paris fears, in fact, that Germany will be tempted to oppose sales of this equipment if the customer is judged, rightly or wrongly, negatively by public opinion. However, the role of Defense equipment exports in France is very different from that in Germany, playing both a major economic role, almost 50% of the annual production volume of its Defense industry being dedicated to export, diplomatic by strengthening France's weight in certain regions of the globe, as well as budgetary, with exports almost balancing budgetary expenditure on Defense equipment for the French armies.

This point had been addressed at the start of the negotiations concerning the FCAS and the MGCS by Florence Parly, the Minister of the Armed Forces, and her German counterpart, Ursula von der Leyen, had apparently given her all the guarantees that the Germany would not oppose the export decisions taken by France.

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In fact, when Ms. Merkel called on all European countries to suspend their arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia following the Koshyggi affair, and against a backdrop of intervention in Yemen, French concerns reappeared with force. 

It must be said that French exports to countries engaged in the war in Yemen reached €3,3 billion in 2017, for an average of €3,5 billion per year over the last 10 years. Embargoing Saudi Arabia would lead to serious complications with Egypt, financed by Riad, the United Arab Emirates, its closest ally, Kuwait, and even Morocco. This would therefore mean 40.000 jobs in the French Defense sector would be threatened, bringing in their wake 200.000 indirect and induced jobs. Germany, for its part, is only exposed to the amount of 350 million euros, or 4000 direct jobs, and 20.000 indirect jobs, 10 times less than in France. We therefore understand the embarrassment into which Ms. Merkel's declaration has placed the French authorities.

The fact remains that this affair reveals the very significant exposure of the French BITD to exports, more precisely to exports outside the traditional Western alliance. It also shows the deep differences between the Franco-German couple in terms of foreign policy. 

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Whether concerning cooperative Defense programs such as Defense Europe, these differences will have to be handled officially, beyond individual agreements. Otherwise, all these initiatives are likely to add to the very long list of aborted European ambitions.

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