Reuters said that France’s interests are “at stake” after the escalation of calls in the Islamic world to boycott its products, as part of protests against displaying cartoons insulting to the Prophet Muhammad in France.
During the past few days, France has witnessed the publication of insulting pictures and drawings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, on the facades of buildings in France, with President Emmanuel Macron’s insistence not to retract the (offensive) fees.
Macron’s statements sparked a wave of anger throughout the Islamic world, and boycott campaigns were launched in Arab and Islamic countries for French products and goods.
On Sunday, France urged Middle Eastern countries to prevent retail companies from boycotting their products, saying they came from a “radical minority”.
Reuters showed some French companies and sectors that deal with Muslim-majority countries.
France is one of the largest exporters of agricultural products in the world. The National Food Industry Association, a French lobby group in the sector, says 3 percent of those exports go to the Middle East. Cereals form a large part of those exports.
And Algeria is the tenth largest export market for French agricultural products, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture in Paris, with exports amounting to about 1.4 billion euros in 2019.
Morocco, one of the Islamic countries that condemned the publication of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, ranked 17 in importing French agricultural products last year, with exports amounting to 700 million euros.
The National Association of Food Industries said that the Department of Trade at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs formed a crisis center and was communicating with representatives of the agricultural sector.
Among the targets of the boycott calls in Saudi Arabia is the Carrefour chain. A campaign to urge consumers not to go to these stores spread strongly on social media in the Kingdom over the weekend.
Carrefour has many branches in the Middle East and South Asia through partnerships. One of the partners has exclusive rights to Carrefour in countries such as Pakistan, Lebanon and Bahrain. While another partner owns Carrefour rights in Morocco.
Reuters journalists in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, visited two Carrefour stores that appeared to be crowded as usual.
A company representative in Paris said it had not yet felt the boycott calls.
The French energy giant Total is present in several Muslim-majority countries.
In Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey, which have witnessed strong anti-French reactions due to the cartoons, the company is mainly focused on selling its petrochemical and petroleum products.
In Saudi Arabia, as well as in many other Gulf states, Total has investments in exploration and production, and in some cases, refining.
Fashion and luxury goods
Reuters visited a store in Kuwait City to find that L’Oreal cosmetics and skin care products had been removed from the shelves. The store was one of about 70 outlets linked to a cooperative that decided to stop selling French products.
But L’Oréal and other companies in the French fashion sector have had limited influence over boycott campaigns in the region. The Middle East and Africa represent little in the way of L’Oréal’s profits, at just over 2%.
For the big French fashion brands, the Middle East represents a fraction of sales compared to the United States, Asia or Europe.
Famous brands such as Louis Vuitton owned by LVMH and privately held Chanel have stores across the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
But wealthy customers in the Middle East tend to purchase luxury goods while traveling. LVMH, which also owns Christian Dior, does not disclose the extent of the Middle East contribution to its revenue.
Defense and space
France is one of the largest arms exporters in the world. Thales sells weapons, aviation technology, and public transport systems to a number of Muslim-majority countries.
Among the clients are Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey and Qatar, according to the company’s website.
Egypt and Qatar are among the countries that have ordered military Rafale aircraft from Dassault, which also considers the region a large market for its private jets.
French carmaker Renault lists Turkey as its eighth largest market and sold 49,131 vehicles there in the first six months of the year.
PSA, which makes Citroen and Peugeot, said in its latest financial results that sales in Turkey are increasing and forming a bright spot in a tough market, without disclosing specific numbers.