Économie et Statistique n° 438-439-440 - 2010Aspects of the crisis
An Analysis of the Dynamics of French Firms' Exports, 2000-2009
The drop in French exports in 2009, during the trade crisis, was mainly due to the decrease in the intensity of pre-crisis flows (called “intensive margin” in the literature). The sharp decline in the number of exporting firms observed in 2009-which, in fact, was not the steepest of the 2000s-does not appear to have played as great a role. Large exporters respond by reducing their export flows but maintaining their presence in key markets. As a result, the intensive margin accounted for an even greater share of the total variations in flows than during the growth period of the first decade of the century. By contrast, the decrease in the number of export flows mainly involved small exporters. A structural-residual analysis indicates an underperformance of small exporters since 2001. The breakdown of French exports by sector and geographic area shows that export trends in specific markets observed until 2007 bear little relationship with the changes recorded in the same markets in 2009. The crisis did not necessarily impact the sectors that were least dynamic previously, and the destinations previously most attractive sometimes turned out to be the hardest hit. Lastly, trade-weighted foreign demand for French products varies according to the margins examined: the margins most closely correlated with that demand are the intensive and extensive product margins. This link is all the more visible with larger exporters. Also, the performance of subsidiaries of French groups seems more closely correlated with the French business cycle, whereas the subsidiaries of foreign groups appear more sensitive to international economic conditions.