PARIS  - Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault pledged on Wednesday to eliminate France’s non-energy trade deficit, currently around 25 billion euros, within five years.

In an interview on BFMTV and RMC radio Ayrault said some 45 billion of France’s 70 billion euro trade is due to energy imports, and “there is still 25 billion which is due to us importing more than we export.”

“The objective, the ambition of this government, is that at the end of our mandate in five years that this part of our trade balance will be zero,” said the prime minister.He said the government “very very strongly” committed to the objective.

Economists have frequently pointed to the French manufacturing sector’s lack of competitiveness and trade deficit as a major problem for the country’s economy.

“We have a problem with our exports,” Ayrault acknowledged. “We have good companies but often they are too small ... they often have problems with financing...” He said France’s embassies needed to step up support for French companies abroad. An increase in exports would help France achieve its growth targets.

France’s economy recorded zero growth in the second quarter while most of its eurozone counterparts were in recession or saw growth slow.

Ayrault wouldn’t rule out a revision of the government’s growth forecast of 1.2 percent for next year, saying it would be “changed depending on developments.”

The forecast is considered optimistic by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Bank of France.

Slower growth would make it more difficult for France to keep its pledge to reduce the public deficit to 4.5 percent this year and 3.0 percent next year, the normal upper limit under EU fiscal rules.

Ayrault said France had to keep to its deficit reduction pledge and if growth is slower than expected then the budget would be revised, with a balance of spending cuts and tax increases.