Nicknamed “The Hexagon” (l’Hexagone en français) because of the country’s roughly six-sided shape, France is strategically located on the European continent. It borders Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Italy to the east, Andorra to the South and Spain to the west. England is almost due north across the English Channel from France.
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. That dollar figure represents roughly 2.9% of overall global exports estimated at $19.285 trillion one year earlier during 2018 (calculated as of February 8, 2020).
Applying a continental lens, 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%).
France’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of France’s top trading partners, countries that imported the most French shipments by dollar value during 2019. Also shown is each importing country’s percentage of total French exports.
- Germany: US$78.1 billion (14.1% of total French exports)
- United States: $47.1 billion (8.5%)
- Italy: $42 billion (7.6%)
- Spain: $41.7 billion (7.5%)
- Belgium: $38.3 billion (6.9%)
- United Kingdom: $37.7 billion (6.8%)
- China: $23.4 billion (4.2%)
- Switzerland: $19.9 billion (3.6%)
- Netherlands: $19.6 billion (3.5%)
- Poland: $11.4 billion (2.1%)
- Singapore: $9.7 billion (1.7%)
- Japan: $8.6 billion (1.6%)
- Portugal: $8 billion (1.4%)
- Turkey: $6.7 billion (1.2%)
- Hong Kong: $6.5 billion (1.2%)
Close to three-quarters (71.8%) of French exports in 2019 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
The top increase from 2018 to 2019 belongs to Portugal (up 27.3%). Other leading gains belong to Japan (up 10.7%), Switzerland (up 5.3%) then the United States (up 4%).
Leading the decliners were Hong Kong (down -11%), Germany (down -6.3%), Turkey (also down -6.3%), Spain (down -6.2%) then Netherlands (down -6.1%).
France incurred an estimated trade deficit equal to -$82.8 billion during 2019, down -9.1% from its -$91.1 negative trade balance one year earlier.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, a given export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
France incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries:
- China: -US$35.3 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2018)
- Germany: -$16.9 billion
- Netherlands: -$8.7 billion
- Italy: -$6.4 billion
- France: -$5.5 billion
- Ireland: -$4.7 billion
- Vietnam: -$4.5 billion
- Belgium: -$4.3 billion
- Saudi Arabia: -$4 billion
- Nigeria: -$3.7 billion
Among France’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, French deficits with Ireland (up 17.8%), Saudi Arabia (up 11.3%) and China (up 1.4%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate France’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for France to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
In 2019, France incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- United Kingdom: US$14 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2018)
- Singapore: $5.9 billion
- Hong Kong: $5.7 billion
- United States: $4.4 billion
- Qatar: $3.5 billion
- Switzerland: $3.5 billion
- United Arab Emirates: $1.9 billion
- Egypt: $1.8 billion
- Australia: $1.7 billion
- Greece: $1.6 billion
Among France’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, French surpluses with Switzerland (up 167.3%), Egypt (up 59.7%) and Qatar (up 17.8%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate France’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for France to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
French Companies Servicing Trading Partners
France placed 69 companies in the Forbes Global 2000 rankings. Below is a sample of the major French companies that Forbes included:
- 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)
See also France’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, France’s Top 10 Imports and France’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on February 8, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 8, 2020
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on February 8, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 8, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 8, 2020
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on February 8, 2020
Wikopedia, List of Companies of France. Accessed on February 8, 2020