Junior minister for trade Pierre Lellouche told Le Figaro that while the figure was the highest ever recorded, it was still “lower than had been anticipated.” Initial estimates had put the deficit at €75 billion.
In 2011 France’s imports rose by 11 percent to €498 billion euros while exports rose by 8.6 percent to €429 billion euros, allowing for the creation of 90,000 new jobs, he said.
“We can be satisfied at the good results in certain sectors, the agro-food sector saw a historic surplus of 11.4 billion (euros). Aeronautics also saw a surplus, of 17.7 billion, thanks to the sale of 534 Airbus planes.”
However, Lellouche said the country still had more to do to improve key export markets, particularly emerging markets.
“Our sales to the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) only represent 7 percent of our experts, against 12 percent of German exports,” he said.
French exports rose less last year than in Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy or the United States.
Lellouche said France suffered from labour costs that are too high.
“Labour costs are at the heart of everything,” he said. “With a differential of 10 percent with Germany, it’s not sustainable.”
France’s global trade share has fallen sharply since 1990 from 6.2 percent to 3.6 percent.