Cutting the cord with Russia will not be without consequences for the French economy. As with oil and gas, France has for decades relied on the world’s largest country to supply it with the raw materials it needs for many industries, most notably aeronautics. But that relationship risks being compromised by an invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops.
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As long as Vladimir Putin’s army continues to advance, the Moscow regime is indeed subject to sanctions from the international community. From the French side “economic war” proclaimed by the (then relativized) Economy Minister Bruno Lemaire, could well have threatened supply of some products from the eastern giant. To better see, Franceinfo lists critical imports, their importance to the French economy, and alternatives being considered by manufacturers.
gas and oil
If about 46% of the gas imported by the EU states comes from Russia, then the consumption of Russian gas in France is much lower. – and decreases over several years. According to a Senate briefing at the time, it was around 25% in 2007 and is now around 17%. In the event of a complete shutdown of three Russian gas pipelines to Europe, France has other partners, such as Norway or Algeria, which, however, do not have Russian production capacity.
As for oil, according to INSEE data, black gold is supplied to France mainly by Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan. Russian oil accounts for just under 13% of the oil imported into France, but these are types of hydrocarbons that are still hard to find elsewhere.
“This is primarily a dependence on processed products, in particular road diesel, diesel fuel”, detailed for France 2 Nicolas Mazzucchi, researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Studies (FRS). Thus, this is a key need for France, which explains why Russian oil tankers were still allowed to dock in the country’s ports in recent days.
Even if France has reduced its dependence on fossil fuels, the country still loves Russian coal. About 30% of the coal imported into France in 2020 came from Russia, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition. The rest came mainly from Australia (also about 30%) and the USA (about 10%).
This situation is even more pronounced at the European level. In 2021, according to the Eurostat agency, Russia supplied the EU with 56.1 million tons of solid fuel, which is 46.7% of EU imports in this area.
Industrial metals (aluminum, titanium, etc.)
A quick look at the register of trade between France and Russia shows that over the past three years, products (excluding hydrocarbons) coming from Russia are mainly iron ores and non-ferrous metals such as aluminum. Among these metals, we mainly find palladium (which is used in particular for the production of catalytic converters for cars), titanium (aviation), nickel, cobalt (batteries, wind turbines), tungsten (electronics), platinum or even copper.
“Without these metals, some branches of industry in France simply could not provide their production anymore”explains Franceinfo Sarah Guillou, dDirector of the Department of Innovation and Competition of the French Economic Observatory (OFCE). But be careful, French supplies go far beyond Russia. In some industries, for example, in aeronautics, the situation is quite clear: the titanium used for French aviation is 50% Russian. Gallery (paid product). For a car or French electronics, things are a little less clear.
“Dependence on Russian metals is difficult to quantify, Emphasizes Sarah Guillou, because the customs figures do not necessarily indicate where the raw material comes from. Officially, France imports 3% of non-ferrous metals from Russia. but this figure is certainly an underestimate. For example, palladium bought in the Netherlands or Switzerland could well have been produced in Russia and changed hands several times.
So far, France has taken restrictive measures against Russia, but has not declared an embargo on the import of raw materials. “However, we note that some companies take a stand against public opinion or respond to political pressure, and therefore refuse to trade with Russia.”, Sarah Guillou recalls. Added to this is the cessation of flights with Russia, which limits the import of certain metals, such as palladium.
“These markets are already experiencing price tensions”– specifies a specialist in the field of industrial economics. In 2021, the country produced 43% of the world’s palladium. The Russian group Rusal is the second producer of industrial aluminum in the world. The country ranks third in nickel ore mining and second in refined nickel production.
“If Russia decides to limit its sales, world prices will rise sharply, warn Sarah Guillou, and inflation on these commodities will inevitably affect the entire production chain.” It’s time for manufacturers to build up stocks of raw materials, and small companies can find it difficult to cope with this task.
According to Sarah Guillou, importers working with Russia (just under 2,000 in France) “used to face conflicts, restrictions”. “The big uncertainty that everyone is trying to gauge is how long the conflict in Ukraine will last.”