France’s Top 10 Exports

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France shipped US$488.8 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2016, up by 5.3% since 2009 when the Great Recession kicked in but down by -1.1% from 2015 to 2016.

France’s top 10 exports accounted for almost two-thirds (62.2%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, France’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $2.737 trillion as of November 2016.

Therefore, exports accounted for about 17.9% of total French economic output.

From a continental perspective, 65.1% of French exports by value are delivered to other European countries while 17% are sold to Asian importers. France ships another 8.9% to North America with another 5.8% worth of French goods arriving in Africa.

Given France’s population of 66.8 million people (including its five overseas regions), its total $488.8 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $7,300 for every resident in that country.

France’s unemployment rate was 9.9% as of September 2016 compared to 10.6% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.

France’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in French global shipments during 2016. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from France. At the more detailed Harmonized Tariff System code level, France’s number 1 exported product are large airplanes followed by therapeutic or prophylactic drugs and medicines then motor cars.

  1. Machinery including computers: US$57.3 billion (11.7% of total exports)
  2. Aircraft, spacecraft: $53.2 billion (10.9%)
  3. Vehicles : $45.4 billion (9.3%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: $39.2 billion (8%)
  5. Pharmaceuticals: $30.1 billion (6.2%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $19.5 billion (4%)
  7. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $16.5 billion (3.4%)
  8. Perfumes, cosmetics: $15.6 billion (3.2%)
  9. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $15.4 billion (3.2%)
  10. Iron, steel: $11.5 billion (2.4%)

Aircraft and spacecraft was the fastest-gaining product category up by 54% from 2009 to 2016.

In second place was the beverages, spirits and vinegar up by 21.8% propelled by international sales of French wine, beer and vermouth.

Exports of perfumes and cosmetics grew by 14% over the 7-year period, trailed by French shipments of plastics up 12.7%.

Three top French exports declined: iron and steel (down -11.7%), pharmaceuticals (down -9.6%) and optical, technical and medical equipment (down -5.3%).


The following types of French product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports is the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Aircraft, spacecraft: US$19.4 billion (Up by 5.9% since 2009)
  2. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $12.6 billion (Up by 26.6%)
  3. Perfumes, cosmetics: $10.1 billion (Up by 10.1%)
  4. Pharmaceuticals: $8.1 billion (Down by -8.3%)
  5. Cereals: $5.2 billion (Down by -10%)
  6. Dairy, eggs, honey: $3.1 billion (Down by -6.1%)
  7. Other chemical goods: $2.6 billion (Up by 18.8%)
  8. Leather/animal gut articles: $2.5 billion (Up by 78.3%)
  9. Live animals: $1.9 billion (Down by -1.5%)
  10. Ships, boats: $1.8 billion (Up by 262.5%)

France has highly positive net exports in the international trade of aerospace products. In turn, these cashflows indicate France’s strong competitive advantages under the aircraft and spacecraft product category.


Below are exports from France that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country France’s goods trail French importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: -US$35.7 billion (Down by -35.7% since 2009)
  2. Vehicles : -$13.9 billion (Up by 33.4%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$12.6 billion (Up by 47.5%)
  4. Machinery including computers: -$11 billion (Up by 33.4%)
  5. Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$6.4 billion (Up by 20.2%)
  6. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$6 billion (Up by 8.3%)
  7. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$5.5 billion (Up by 11.5%)
  8. Organic chemicals: -$4.2 billion (Up by 17.5%)
  9. Footwear: -$4 billion (Up by 9.4%)
  10. Fish: -$3.6 billion (Up by 21.3%)

France has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuel-related resources, particularly crude and refined oils, petroleum gas and coal.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate France’s competitive disadvantages in the international fuel market, but also represent key opportunities for France to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations in alternative energy sources.


French Export Companies

France placed 69 companies in the Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings. The following companies are examples of world-leading French companies:

  • Total (oil, gas)
  • Sanofi (pharmaceuticals)
  • EADS (aerospace)
  • Christian Dior (clothing, accessories)
  • Schneider Electric (electrical equipment)
  • Danone (food processing)
  • Renault (cars, trucks)
  • Saint-Gobain (construction materials)
  • Air Liquide (specialized chemicals)
  • Safran (aerospace)
  • Michelin Group (automotive parts)
  • Pernod Ricard (beverages)

Global trade intelligence firm Zepol lists the following smaller French exporters:

  • Transityre France (latex, transmission belts, vehicle tires)
  • Hesnault (wines, jams, cheese)
  • Mane Fils (aromatic materials)

France’s capital city is Paris.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also France’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, France’s Top 10 Imports, France’s Top Import Partners and Highest Value French Export Products

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 12, 2017

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 12, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on February 12, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 25, 2016

Wikipedia, List of Companies of France. Accessed on February 25, 2016

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on October 21, 2015