French Antilles and French Guiana - International trade

The CDF trade primarily with each other, France, other EU members, and the United States. Principal exports from Guadeloupe include bananas, sugar, and rum, while imports consist of foodstuffs, fuels, vehicles, clothing and other consumer goods , and construction material. About 60 percent of exports are directed towards France, 18 percent to Martinique, and 4 percent to the United States. Sixty-three percent of imports come from France, 4 percent from Germany, 3 percent from the United States, 2 percent from Japan, and 2 percent from the Netherlands Antilles. Martinique's exports are mostly refined petroleum products, bananas, and rum, while imports include petroleum products, crude oil, foodstuffs, construction materials, vehicles, clothing, and other consumer goods. Around 45 percent of exports are directed towards France and 28 percent go to Guadeloupe. Sixty-two percent of imports are from France, 6 percent from Venezuela, 4 percent from Germany, 4 percent from Italy, and 3 percent from the United States. French Guiana mostly exports shrimp, timber, gold, rum, and rosewood essence, while imports consist of food (grains, processed meat), machinery and transport equipment, fuels, and chemicals. Fifty-two percent of exports go to France, 14 percent to the United States, and 6 percent to Trinidad and Tobago. Sixty-two percent of imports come from France, 7 percent from Switzerland, and 2 percent from the United States.

As agricultural exporting and capital goods importing departments, the CDF routinely run balance of trade deficits that render them highly dependent on French

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): French Guiana
Exports Imports
1975 .002 .072
1980 .025 .255
1985 .037 .255
1990 .093 .786
1995 N/A N/A
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

loans and aid to finance needed imports. Dependency on badly needed foodstuff exacerbates the trade deficits, which, for each CDF, have actually increased in recent years. In 1999, for example, the deficit in French Guiana equaled 427 million euros, whereas this figure increased to 503 million euros in 2000. In 1998, French Guiana's total external debt reached $1.2 billion. In terms of trade deficits, however, Martinique is in the worst position, with its deficits surpassing even the total debt of French Guiana. The department, which only had a GDP of $250 million in 1997, had a total deficit of 1.5 billion euros in 2000, a considerable increase from the total deficit of 1.4 million euros in 1999. As a result of these massive deficits, the need for the CDF to further develop their domestic industries and food-producing capacity is all the more urgent.

As departments of France, the CDF are members of the most highly integrated regional economic association in the world—the European Union (EU)—with the least barriers for the movement of goods, services, capital, and labor. Many critics have argued that less developed countries cannot engage in free trade with industrialized countries because they do not possess the ability to compete. In other words, lowering of tariffs simply means that domestic industries in developing countries will falter under competitive pressures, which, in turn, will lead to further entrenchment of the agricultural sector in the economy and a prolonging of uneven patterns of trade. At the same time, however, the CDF have benefitted within the EU as recipients of aid programs and in gaining preferential access to EU markets for agricultural produce. Unfortunately, the World Trade Organization (WTO), which binds the EU economies and most countries of the world in an international free trade arrangement, has criticized EU preferential treatment for CDF agricultural products, such as bananas. WTO members that export bananas argue that EU preferential access for the French Antilles is a violation of WTO free trade rules, which are supposed to guarantee equal access to EU markets for all WTO members on the same terms.

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