Services remain a stronghold of the French economy

A survey by INSEE shows that the trade surplus fell by almost half between 2012 and 2016.

In difficulties in the sector, France is still one of the most dynamic countries in the world of services. A study by INSEE on companies, published on Thursday 8 October, recalls that the Hexagon was the fourth largest exporter of services in 2016, with a market share of 4.9%. In Europe it is in third place, behind Germany and the United Kingdom.

But as the balance of these exchanges " structural surplus ", Says INSEE, it has deteriorated since 2013. This fall is even the second largest in the European Union in the period from 2012 to 2016. Overall, France is the eighth largest exporter of goods in the world with a market share of 3 %

A surplus of 18 billion in 2016

The trade surplus in the services sector fell by almost half between 2012 and 2016, from € 31 billion to € 17.8 billion. In 2017, however, it increased by 8 billion euro (up to 26 billion), thanks to an increase in the surplus of "travel" – a sector a bit " wider According to INSEE, tourism also takes into account purchases by frontier workers and seasonal workers.

During this period "France is losing its place in the balance of trade in services between the countries of the European Union, underlines INSEE's study. In 2016, the United Kingdom and Spain are still in the lead, but now followed by Luxembourg. "

Great exporter, Germany is also a very important importer and his balance is " structural deficit ", Says INSEE because of journeys (deficit of 38 billion euros in this sector, for a total deficit of 21 billion), but the total deficit fell by 12 billion euros over the period.

> To read: Germany, an inimitable economic model for France

Exchanges that remain dynamic

If the balance is reduced, the exchange of services between France is the other countries remain very dynamic. Between 2012 and 2016, exports grew every year, as did other major countries, with the exception of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. They reached 235 billion euros in 2016, or 11% of the gross domestic product.

But the slightly less favorable balance is explained by an even more dynamic increase in imports: this amounted to 220 billion euros in 2016, the highest level of the EU after Germany.

Excess travel sector

It is not surprising for each sector that travel makes the French surplus, as do financial services and technical services (engineering, waste disposal, commercial services …).

Conversely, transport and R & D services are structurally loss-making.

The place of subsidiaries of multinationals

The INSEE study also shows that the most successful companies in the field of trade in services are those that are the most integrated in the world economy, especially the subsidiaries of multinationals: they represent only 12% of the units that realize international trade, but account for 90% of France's exports and imports of services.

But only subsidiaries of French multinationals have a surplus over the entire period 2013-2016: they generate an average surplus of 10 billion euros per year, while the subsidiaries of foreign multinationals have an average annual deficit of 2 billion. On the other hand, the subsidiaries of French multinationals are losing ground because their surpluses are getting smaller, while the situation of their foreign counterparts is improving.

Séverin Husson