The political and financial support given to French export efforts is evident in the strength of sales to North Africa. Data for the first six months of this year show Algeria, Morocco and Turkey vying for the top spot as the leading export markets. The overall value of exports to 23 regional states is slightly lower than at mid-1995, pointing to a slowdown in sales after a strong performance over the last two years.

In the Maghreb, Morocco and Tunisia attract the lowest premiums for short- term cover by export credit agency Coface. For Morocco, in particular, almost unlimited cover is available. In the case of Algeria, Coface is giving priority to cover for activity in the oil and gas sector. Jordan, Egypt and Turkey have all benefited from an increase in the sums available to cover exporters. Even Iran is open for cover again, with the ceiling adjusted regularly to reflect the reduction in Tehran’s arrears.

Coface is more circumspect with its medium-term cover for the region. Only Israel and the UAE enjoy unrestricted access to cover for transactions of more than one year. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are closely monitored; exposure to every other country is kept below a ceiling. Only Yemen and Iraq are denied any form of cover.

Defence orders from the Middle East rebounded last year to FF 19,000 million (see page 15). Figures from the Defence Ministry reflect the Sawari 2 frigate order from Saudi Arabia and the order for eight fast patrol boats from Kuwait. Delivery figures include shipments of the Leclerc tank to Abu Dhabi and the handover of minehunters to Pakistan.