Paris: France remained as the fourth largest exporter of defence equipment in 2010, with orders totalling 5.12 billion euros (about USD7.12 billion), while the US is still the world's largest arms exporter. The figure, however, was some 37 percent down from 8.16 billion euros in 2009, due to the economic downturn last year, the Defence Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The US, the European Union, Russia and Israel took up about 90 percent of the world arms market from 2001 to 2010, it said.

The US is still the biggest defence equipment exporter, taking 53.7 percent of the global market while France only had six percent, maintaining its export value between 5 and 10 billion euros during the past five years.

The world arms market was a highly competitive market, dominated by a small number of exporters, the ministry said.

“France is one of the few countries to master all the techniques,” it added.

According to a report of the ministry presented to parliament, 27 percent of French weapon exports went to the Middle East last year, 25 percent to Latin America and 18 percent to Asia.