Formally the French Republic, France shipped US$555.1 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar metric reflects a -2.4% decrease from 2018 to 2019 compared to a 12.1% increase in value since 2015.
France’s exported goods totaled $336.4 billion during the first 9 months of 2020. Assuming an annualized $448.6 billion in exports for all 2020, France is on track for an estimated -19.2% drop in value for its shipments from 2019 to 2020.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the euro appreciated by 0.9% against the US dollar since 2015 but declined by -5.5% from 2018 to 2019. The weaker EU currency in 2019 made France’s exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 68% of products exported from France were bought by importers in: Germany (14.1% of the global total), United States (8.5%), Italy (7.6%), Spain (7.5%), Belgium (6.9%), United Kingdom (6.8%), China (4.2%), Switzerland (3.6%), Netherlands (3.5%), Poland (2.1%), Singapore (1.7%) and Japan (1.6%).
From a continental perspective, 64.3% of France exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 17.4% were sold to importers in Asia. France shipped another 10% worth of goods to North America and Africa (5.2%). Smaller percentages went to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.9%) then Oceania led by Australia (1%).
Given France’s population of 64.8 million people, its total $555.1 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $8,600 for every resident in the European Union member nationy.
France’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in French global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from France.
- Machinery including computers: US$67.3 billion (12.1% of total exports)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $53.5 billion (9.6%)
- Vehicles: $52.8 billion (9.5%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $43.4 billion (7.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $35.5 billion (6.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $20.9 billion (3.8%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: $20.1 billion (3.6%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $19.3 billion (3.5%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $17.6 billion (3.2%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $15.5 billion (2.8%)
France’s top 10 export categories accounted for over three-fifths (62.3%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Pharmaceuticals represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 4.9% since 2018. In second place for improving export sales was the optical, technical and medical apparatus subcategory thanks to its 4.2% gain. France’s deliveries of aircraft and spacecraft posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 3.1%.
The leading decliner among France’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil via a -17.1% drop.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of France’s Most Valuable Export Products further down below.
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 represent 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.
- Aircraft, spacecraft: US$32.9 billion (Up by 6.2% since 2018)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $14.7 billion (Up by 0.8%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: $13.7 billion (Up by 2.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $10.4 billion (Up by 20.8%)
- Cereals: $6.4 billion (Up by 0.9%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $4.2 billion (Up by 19.8%)
- Other chemical goods: $4 billion (Up by 5.7%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $2.6 billion (Up by 5%)
- Live animals: $2.1 billion (Down by -2.2%)
- Ships, boats: $2 billion (Down by -27.5%)
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.
Among France’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, France’s deficits with Ireland (up 17.8%), Saudi Arabia (up 11.3%) and China (up 1.4%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US-$50.5 billion (Down by -8.3% since 2018)
- Vehicles: -$20.5 billion (Up by 17%)
- Machinery including computers: -$16.2 billion (Up by 0.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$13.1 billion (Down by -2.2%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$7.8 billion (Down by -1.5%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$6.4 billion (Down by -1.2%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$5.5 billion (Down by -5.6%)
- Organic chemicals: -$4.2 billion (Down by -4.8%)
- Fruits, nuts: -$4.2 billion (Down by -1.8%)
- Footwear: -$4 billion (Down by -6.6%)
France has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related resources, particularly crude and refined oils, petroleum gases and coal.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate France’s competitive disadvantages in the international fuel market, but also represent key opportunities for France to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations especially in alternative energy sources.
French Export Companies
France placed roughly 70 companies in the Forbes Global 2000 rankings. The following companies are examples of world-leading French companies.
- Total (oil, gas)
- Sanofi (pharmaceuticals)
- EADS (aerospace)
- Christian Dior (clothing, accessories)
- Schneider Electric (electrical equipment)
- Danone (food processing)
- Renault (cars, trucks)
- Saint-Gobain (construction materials)
- Air Liquide (specialized chemicals)
- Safran (aerospace)
- Michelin Group (automotive parts)
- Pernod Ricard (beverages)
Global trade intelligence firm Zepol lists the following smaller French exporters. Selected examples are shown below.
- Transityre France (latex, transmission belts, vehicle tires)
- Hesnault (wines, jams, cheese)
- Mane Fils (aromatic materials)
Searchable List of France’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from France during 2019. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2018.
|Rank||France's Export Product||2019 Value (US$)||Change|
|2||Medication mixes in dosage||$26,153,655,000||+2.7%|
|7||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$9,976,191,000||+3.9%|
|9||Cases, handbags, wallets||$8,627,042,000||+11.7%|
|10||Processed petroleum oils||$8,385,015,000||-20.8%|
|13||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$7,494,667,000||+15.2%|
|15||Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)||$5,491,414,000||+3%|
|16||Perfumes, toilet waters||$5,391,489,000||+1.8%|
|17||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$4,684,638,000||-3.2%|
|20||Phone system devices including smartphones||$3,990,006,000||-23.8%|
|22||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$3,529,282,000||+8.6%|
|26||Miscellaneous plastic items||$2,931,236,000||-2.4%|
|27||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$2,790,796,000||+2.9%|
|29||Rubber tires (new)||$2,695,021,000||-2.6%|
|30||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$2,676,102,000||+4.4%|
|31||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$2,553,699,000||-0.5%|
|33||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$2,495,861,000||-0.3%|
|34||Computers, optical readers||$2,445,559,000||-2.7%|
|35||Liquid pumps and elevators||$2,440,725,000||-5.8%|
|37||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$2,376,666,000||+0.6%|
|38||Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing||$2,326,190,000||-1.5%|
|39||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$2,247,568,000||-17.3%|
|40||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$2,214,034,000||+4.1%|
|43||Air or vacuum pumps||$2,158,720,000||-4.7%|
|45||Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations||$2,024,155,000||-1%|
|46||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$2,015,577,000||+0.7%|
|47||Flat-rolled other alloy steel products||$2,010,016,000||-11.9%|
|48||Iron or steel scrap||$1,980,467,000||-16.4%|
|49||Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)||$1,956,717,000||+4.4%|
|50||Other organic cleaning preparations||$1,942,557,000||+2.5%|
|51||Piston engine parts||$1,918,409,000||-14%|
|52||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$1,909,018,000||-6.6%|
|54||Ball, roller bearings||$1,888,992,000||-7.1%|
|55||Chemical industry products/residuals||$1,882,205,000||-7.7%|
|56||Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)||$1,875,830,000||+9.9%|
|57||Cruise/cargo ships, barges||$1,800,903,000||-26.3%|
|58||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$1,793,437,000||-11.5%|
|60||Aluminum plates, sheets, strips||$1,762,019,000||-9.4%|
|61||Other food preparations||$1,732,335,000||-3.2%|
|62||Live bovine cattle||$1,684,959,000||-3.8%|
|65||Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers||$1,580,312,000||-3.5%|
|66||Electrical converters/power units||$1,554,427,000||-2.1%|
|67||Electric water heaters, hair dryers||$1,535,197,000||+1.1%|
|71||Unrecorded sound media||$1,443,194,000||-4.4%|
|72||Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches||$1,437,457,000||-2.8%|
|73||Electric motors, generators||$1,432,965,000||-6.4%|
|74||Heterocyclics, nucleic acids||$1,401,481,000||-4.7%|
|75||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$1,395,732,000||+1.6%|
|76||Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)||$1,392,637,000||+1.4%|
|78||Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)||$1,352,580,000||-4.5%|
|83||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$1,283,544,000||-9.2%|
|86||Radar, radio communication items||$1,255,895,000||+23.3%|
|87||Electric ignition/start equipment||$1,254,693,000||+4.8%|
|88||Other diagnostic/lab reagents||$1,253,539,000||-7%|
|91||Vulcanized rubber items||$1,232,658,000||-4.8%|
|92||Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels||$1,224,516,000||+5.5%|
|93||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$1,224,502,000||-13.7%|
|94||Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters||$1,218,047,000||-11%|
|97||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$1,188,432,000||-4.6%|
|98||Other measuring/testing machines||$1,181,776,000||+3.5%|
|99||Wrist/pocket watches (precious metal case)||$1,161,611,000||+0.4%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$375 billion or roughly three-quarters (67.5%) by value for all products exported from France during 2019.
In macroeconomic terms, France’s total exported goods represent 18.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($3.061 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 18.1% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 19.2% for 2018. This seems to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for France’s total economic performance, albeit on a very short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. France’s unemployment rate was 9% at September 2020, up from an average 8.62% for 2019 according to the International Monetary Fund.
France’s capital city is Paris.
See also France’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, France’s Top 10 Imports and France’s Top Trading Partners
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Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on November 13, 2020