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In this page: Foreign Trade in Figures | Trade Compliance | Standards

 

Foreign Trade in Figures

France is a major actor in global trade. It is the world's ninth exporter and seventh importer of merchandise (WTO, 2020), and trade represents 58% of the country's GDP (World Bank, 2020). France exports essentially aircrafts, vehicles, pharmaceutical products, food products (wine), hydrocarbons and electronic components. The country imports many consumer goods, vehicles, hydrocarbons and pharmaceutical products. After collapsing in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, trade volumes rebounded in 2021. According to IMF data, the volume of exports of goods and services increased by 7.5% compared to 2020, and the volume of imports increased by 8%. The IMF expects the volume of exports to continue increasing in 2022 (+7%) and 2023 (+4.5%), at a slightly faster pace than imports, which are forecast to increase by 6% in 2022 and 3.5% in 2023.

France's main trade partners are the European Union (Germany being the 1st customer and supplier), the United States and China. The departure of the UK from the EU (Brexit) raises many questions and may lead to a reorganisation of trade relations. The UK is currently France’s 6th customer and 8th supplier.

France registers a strong structural trade deficit. While the goods balance is structurally in deficit as the country is a net energy importer, the services balance is in surplus thanks to tourism revenues. According to WTO data, in 2020, France exported goods with a total value of USD 488.4 billion, while it imported them for a total value of USD 582.6 billion. As for the services, France exported around USD 245 billion worth services in 2020, while it imported services for the total value of USD 231.6 billion. Since 2015, the balance of goods and services excluding energy has become negative, as the deficit in manufactured goods continues to widen, mainly due to the relocation of automobile production and investment in imported machinery. Imports are developing quickly, as the French population buys a substantial amount of imported goods, which are sold at cheaper prices on the local market compared with products that are 'Made in France'. Despite the government's efforts to favour innovation, French exports have a relatively low added value. In 2020, the trade deficit excluding services reached USD 71.3 billion  (World Bank, 2020). According to the latest data published by INSEE (Points de Conjoncture, December 2021), in 2021 exports of goods and services increased by 8.4% compared to 2020, while imports increased by 6.5%. If the aeronautics sector remained affected by the air transport crisis, cosmetics, leather goods and wines and spirits experienced a solid recovery in the first half of 2021, driven by the Chinese and American demand (Coface).

 
Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 573,022618,649676,441654,658582,564
Exports of Goods (million USD) 501,263535,189582,222570,951488,372
Imports of Services (million USD) 235,679245,329273,593269,940231,587
Exports of Services (million USD) 236,760273,953302,272293,569244,998

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 61.163.064.464.157.8
Trade Balance (million USD) -35,747-51,541-57,411-52,568-71,279
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -13,239-23,499-28,339-28,451-56,749
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 2.94.53.12.3-11.9
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.84.44.51.6-15.8
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 30.932.032.732.529.9
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 30.230.931.731.627.9

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

 
Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 7.57.04.53.83.7
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 8.06.03.53.32.9

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2020
Germany 14.3%
Italy 7.6%
United States 7.6%
Belgium 7.4%
Spain 7.3%
See More Countries 55.8%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2020
Germany 17.3%
Belgium 9.6%
Netherlands 8.6%
Italy 8.3%
Spain 7.9%
See More Countries 48.2%

Source: Comtrade, last available data

 

Main Products

488.6 bn USD of products exported in 2020
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 5.7%
Powered aircraft e.g. helicopters and aeroplanes;...Powered aircraft e.g. helicopters and aeroplanes; spacecraft, incl. satellites, and suborbital and spacecraft launch vehicles 4.7%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 3.8%
Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles...Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, motor vehicles for the transport of goods and special purpose motor vehicles of heading 8701 to 8705, n.e.s. 2.6%
Turbo-jets, turbo-propellers and other gas...Turbo-jets, turbo-propellers and other gas turbines 2.4%
See More Products 80.8%
582.8 bn USD of products imported in 2020
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 6.3%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 3.1%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 2.8%
Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles...Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, motor vehicles for the transport of goods and special purpose motor vehicles of heading 8701 to 8705, n.e.s. 2.2%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 2.1%
See More Products 83.5%

Source: Comtrade, last available data

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import export flows.

 

Main Services

232.1 bn USD of services exported in 2018
36.39%
26.65%
18.32%
7.00%
3.69%
3.26%
1.94%
0.96%
0.92%
0.85%
0.02%
207.9 bn USD of services imported in 2018
38.24%
23.44%
19.23%
7.60%
4.51%
2.79%
1.64%
1.13%
1.04%
0.38%
n/a%

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

 

Exchange Rate System

Local Currency
Euro (EUR)
Exchange Rate Regime
Floating exchange regime.
Level of Currency Instability
Very limited exchange risk since the euro is a major currency.
Exchange Rate on :

 
 
Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
American Dollar (USD) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 EUR 1.061.131.181.121.14

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

Find out all the exchange rates daily on our service Currency converter.

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Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of OECD
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
Party of the International Coffee Agreement 2007
International Economic Cooperation
France is a member of the following international economic organisations: ICC, European Union, WTO, European Economic Area, G-5, G-7, G-8, G-10, G-20, IMF, OECD, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates France click here. International organisation membership of France is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by France can be consulted here.
Party of the ATA Convention on Temporary Admissions and Use of the Carnets
Yes

As a Reminder, the ATA is a System Allowing the Free Movement of Goods Across Frontiers and Their Temporary Admission Into a Customs Territory With Relief From Duties and Taxes. The Goods Are Covered By a Single Document Known as the ATA Carnet That is Secured By an International Guarantee System.
Party of the TIR Convention
Yes

As a Reminder, the TIR Convention and its Transit Regime Contribute to the Facilitation of International Transport, Especially International Road Transport, Not Only in Europe and the Middle East, But Also in Other Parts of the World, Such as Africa and Latin America.
Accompanying Documents For Imports
Within the European Union, goods originating in the EU community can move freely and are exempt from customs formalities.

The documents which have to accompany the goods when they are delivered inside the EU community are the following:
-Bill of lading or airway bill
-Certificate of origin
- Commercial invoice
- Declaration of an antique

For a transaction outside the EU community, you have to add:
- Import licenses
- Certifications
- Single Administrative Document (SAD)
- Health certificate

To go further, check out our service Shipping documents.

Free-trade zones
France counts with one free-trade zone, located in the port of Bordeaux.
For Further Information
French Customs website
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Recovery
Non Tariff Barriers
At the European level, agricultural products are protected within the Common Agricultural Policy and textile products from China, Belarus, North Korea, Montenegro, Kosovo and Uzbekistan are subject to particular formalities and import licenses or control procedures (export document, monitoring document).
At the national level, trade in plants and seeds, aircraft and other goods has to be declared; they have to be certified respectively by the GNIS (the national interprofessional organization for seeds and plants), the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Agriculture. Among the non-tariff barriers are France's regulations and bureaucratic procedures, its complex safety standards and its testing and certification requirements.
Sectors or Products For Which Commercial Disagreements Have Been Registered With the WTO
Agricultural products: cereals, bananas, poultry, appellations of geographical origin, garlic, salmon, sardines, sugar, wine, corn, coffee, melted cheese, rice.
Computer material, films and television programs, merchant vessels, civil aircraft, steel and cotton.
Assessment of Commercial Policy
The WTO pages devoted to France
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the United States

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Standards

National Standards Organisations
AFNOR, the French standardisation association
UTE, Technical Union of Electricity
ETSI, European Telecommunications Standards Institute
Integration in the International Standards Network
At the European level:
- CEN, European Committee for Standardisation
- CENELEC, European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation

At the international level:
- International Standards Organisation (ISO)
- International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
Obligation to Use Standards
Products are subject to the European Union's legislation (General product safety Directive, technical legislation) as well as to the national French legislation.

Conformity to standards is compulsory for products such as machines, tools, electrical appliances, sports equipment, toys etc. This list continues to grow. Goods which have complex technology or are potentially dangerous must submit to rigorous testing and approval procedures before they can be marketed in France.

Classification of Standards
NF is the national certification mark.
CE is the European certification mark. It is compulsory for a country to be able to sell on the market.
Assessment of the System of Standardization
French people are receptive to standards being observed; the NF mark or the ISO 9000 certification are well known to consumers and firms and they are appreciated for their guarantee of the quality and safety of products and services.
Online Consultation of Standards
AFNOR
The on-line catalog of European standards
The ISO catalog
The most important standardisation programmes (Website in French)
Certification Organisations
See the list of independent organisations which issue the NF mark with AFNOR accreditation.
Associations of Standards Users
ACANOR, French association for the knowledge and application of standards

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Latest update: June 2022

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