cancellations problematic for bilateral trade
By Zev Stub & Sigalit Shachor
23 May 2002
When yet another French client cancelled sales from plastic films
manufacturer Polyon Barkai Industries recently, marketing manager
Haim Levy wrote an open letter to the French media.
Levy mobilized Kibbutz Barkais 500 members to bombard French
media channels with the letter, which can be found on the companys
site, and Levy expects will be published shortly in Le Figaro.
When I see such bias in the French media, I understand why
there is such discrimination against Israel, and why so many companies
are pulling orders, Levy said. Our companys European
sales have declined 30 to 40% since September 11, while Asian sales
have skyrocketed. Although both markets were equal then, the Asian
market is now almost double the European.
There is a real problem here, he added.
Inon Elroy, commercial attache at the Israeli Embassy in France,
agreed. I cant say that there is not a problem. There
is, said Elroy.
Theres no doubt that recently, following the tough
portrayal of the Israeli Conqueror as seen by a biased
French media, Israel and Israelis have suffered from this image
in the eyes of the French business world and business decisions
have been strongly affected, he said.
Elroy said there has been a significant decrease in economic activities
between the two countries. Over the last few years, trade between
France and Israel had increased to more than $2 billion. However,
the balance of trade was heavily skewed in Frances favor,
with only about 36% of products coming from Israeli producers, and
the percentage declining each year.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics foreign trade
report published this week, exports to the EU, the countrys
leading trading partner, fell 7.2% from the beginning of the year,
to $1.9b. for the first four months. Exports to France were $213.6m.
during the period, while imports were $376.9m. Declines from the
same period last year were 17% and 13%, respectively.
With many European companies cancelling orders from Israeli trading
partners, Levy said they tend to use one of three types of excuses.
We have distributors who will tell us their clients dont
want to buy Israeli products. Other companies tell us straight out,
We wont buy Israeli. The rest blame the cancellation
on the economic difficulties in Europe.
Elroy notes that the problem is not only ideological. Senior
businessmen prefer not to take risks in uncertain situations or
invest money in unstable countries. If they have a choice between
two similar products from Israel or, lets say, Singapore,
theyd prefer Singapore. Their assumption is that in a time
of war economic activities and production are paralyzed.
Levy does not believe that cancelled orders are inevitable, however.
I am friends with a businessman in France who has never bought
from me, he said. One day, I spent four hours with him
explaining the situation here. The next week, I received a nice-sized
order from his company.