France’s Top 10 Exports

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France shipped US$522.8 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar metric represents a 6.9% increase from 2016 to 2017 but a -7.9% decline over the 5-year period starting in 2013.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, France’s exported goods plus services represent 30.3% of total French economic output or Gross Domestic Product. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective, 64.4% of French exports by value are delivered to other European countries while 18.2% are sold to Asian importers. France ships another 8.8% to North America with another 5.4% worth of French goods arriving in Africa.

Given France’s population of 67.1 million people (including its five overseas regions), its total $517.3 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $7,800 for every resident in that country.

France’s unemployment rate was 9.7% as of September 2017 compared to 9.9% 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 2017. France’s top 10 export categories accounted for over three-fifths (62%) of the overall value of its global shipments. 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 most valuable exported products are large airplanes followed by therapeutic or prophylactic drugs and medicines then motor cars.

  1. Machinery including computers: US$60.7 billion (11.6% of total exports)
  2. Aircraft, spacecraft: $51.6 billion (9.9%)
  3. Vehicles: $50.8 billion (9.7%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: $41.8 billion (8%)
  5. Pharmaceuticals: $31.4 billion (6%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $21.4 billion (4.1%)
  7. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $18.2 billion (3.5%)
  8. Perfumes, cosmetics: $17.8 billion (3.4%)
  9. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $15.9 billion (3%)
  10. Iron, steel: $14.9 billion (2.8%)

Among the 10 largest product categories, iron and steel was the fastest-growing via its 28.9% uptick from 2016 to 2017.

In second place was the perfumes and cosmetics category up by 14.2% year over year.

Exports under the vehicles category rose by 12%.

Aircraft and spacecraft was the sole top French export category to decline thanks to its -3.3% drop from 2016 to 2017.


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.

  1. Aircraft, spacecraft: US$27.1 billion (Up by 38.2% since 2016)
  2. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $13.9 billion (Up by 10.1%)
  3. Perfumes, cosmetics: $11.9 billion (Up by 18.2%)
  4. Pharmaceuticals: $8.3 billion (Up by 2.7%)
  5. Cereals: $4.6 billion (Down by -12.6%)
  6. Other chemical goods: $3.1 billion (Up by 18.4%)
  7. Leather/animal gut articles: $2.8 billion (Up by 10.6%)
  8. Dairy, eggs, honey: $2.7 billion (Down by -13.3%)
  9. Iron, steel: $2.4 billion (Up by 38.6%)
  10. Live animals: $2.1 billion (Up by 8%)

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.


France incurred an estimated trade deficit equal to -$88.8 billion during 2017, up 24% from its -$71.7 negative trade balance during 2016.

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$44.9 billion (Up by 25.5% since 2016)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$21.1 billion (Up by 91.9%)
  3. Vehicles: -$14.3 billion (Up by 2.9%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$13.1 billion (Up by 4.2%)
  5. Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$7 billion (Up by 9.4%)
  6. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$6.1 billion (Up by 2.5%)
  7. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$5.7 billion (Up by 2.9%)
  8. Organic chemicals: -$4.7 billion (Up by 11%)
  9. Footwear: -$4.2 billion (Up by 6.2%)
  10. Fish: -$4 billion (Up by 10.3%)

France has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-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 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:

  • 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 alsoFrance’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 13, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 13, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on February 13, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 13, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of France. Accessed on February 13, 2018

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