Business France’s action must better adapt to changing markets

An import-export container Kalyakan / stock.adobe.com

France’s trade deficit should once again deteriorate in 2021 .

Creating a French international team has never been easy. The Court of Auditors has decided to delve into the establishment which is the bridgehead of this policy, Business France – the agency created in 2015 from the merger of two public establishments, the French Agency for International Investments and Ubifrance. Emphasizing first that this merger was marked by “some internal difficulties”, the sages of rue Cambon have improved that its cost has been brought under control. And that after the change of general management (mid-2017), with the return of Christophe Lecourtier, the “progress has been made in the day-to-day management of the establishment, particularly in terms of human resources management and rationalization of the building stock”. The financial situation of the establishment appeared “well controlled“, until the crisis came to cause commercial revenues to fall.

In this context, the Court also considers that “its network should be better adapted to changes in current and future export markets, and less oriented towards the European Union, an area with already mature markets”. Today, Europe represents 48% of the agency’s turnover.

An embryonic “France invest team”

On its missions, the Court also makes a few observations. One of the objectives assigned to Business France in 2018 was in particular to bring together all the competent public players in terms of the internationalization of French companies and their attractiveness by setting up a Team France Export and a Team France Invest. The Sages note that the first seems to be well underway. The second, on the other hand, remains “embryonic” and must be deployed quickly. The Court warns in passing that its establishment “could be more complex than that of Team France Export due to competition between regions in terms of receiving foreign direct investment (FDI) and their reservations about the development, under the aegis of Business France, d “a national strategy in this area”.

Finally, it notes that, according to the data provided by the establishment, its customers are on the whole satisfied with the service rendered (with a rate ranging between 89% and 96% depending on the evaluation methods), “but the economic and social impact of Business France’s actions remains uncertain – almost one in two companies supported believe that they have not obtained an order or concluded a contract following the support received from the public establishment” – which benefits from State subsidies amounting to 101 million, out of a total of 472 million in revenue.

In the meantime, France’s trade deficit should once again deteriorate in 2021 (to 86 billion euros, after 65 billion in 2020) and even plunge to 95 billion in 2022. An absolutely unprecedented amount which will appear 3.7 % of GDP (compared to 2.4% in 2019).

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