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$568.4 billion worth of products around the globe in 2018. That figure represents roughly 3.6% of overall global exports estimated at $15.952 trillion one year earlier during 2017 (calculated as of February 2, 2019).
From a continental perspective, 64.7% of French exports by value are delivered to fellow European countries while 17.6% are sold to Asian importers. France ships another 9.3% to North America with another 5.1% worth of French goods arriving in Africa.
Smaller percentages went to Latin America (1.9%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and to Oceania (0.9%) led by Australia.
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 2018. Also shown is each importing country’s percentage of total French exports.
- Germany: US$83.3 billion (14.7% of total French exports)
- United States: $45.3 billion (8%)
- Spain: $44.3 billion (7.8%)
- Italy: $42.8 billion (7.5%)
- Belgium: $40.4 billion (7.1%)
- United Kingdom: $38.6 billion (6.8%)
- China: $24.5 billion (4.3%)
- Netherlands: $20.9 billion (3.7%)
- Switzerland: $18.9 billion (3.3%)
- Poland: $11.7 billion (2.1%)
- Singapore: $9.7 billion (1.7%)
- Japan: $7.8 billion (1.4%)
- Hong Kong: $7.3 billion (1.3%)
- Turkey: $7.1 billion (1.2%)
- India: $6.5 billion (1.1%)
Close to three-quarters (71.9%) of French exports in 2018 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Turkey was the only top importer that decreased its purchases from France from 2017 to 2018, down in value by -6.3%. Among the other 14 countries, gains ranged from a minimum of 3% for Hong Kong up to 26.7% for Singapore.
There were two decliners among the top importers from France: Turkey with its -2.2% drop and Germany via its smaller -1.8% cutback.
France incurred an estimated trade deficit equal to -$90.5 billion during 2018, up 0.8% from its -$89.7 negative trade balance during 2017.
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$34.4 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2018)
- Germany: -$19.1 billion
- Netherlands: -$9.2 billion
- Italy: -$7.6 billion
- Belgium: -$6 billion
- France: -$5.5 billion
- Russia: -$5.5 billion
- Vietnam: -$4.9 billion
- Japan: -$4.1 billion
- Ireland: -$4 billion
Among France’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, French deficits with Russia (up 137.2%), Belgium (up 25.6%) and Vietnam (up 23.2%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
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 2018, France incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries:
- Hong Kong: US$6.3 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2017)
- Singapore: $5.2 billion
- United Kingdom: $4.8 billion
- United Arab Emirates: $2.6 billion
- South Korea: $1.8 billion
- Algeria: $1.8 billion
- Australia: $1.6 billion
- Qatar: $1.5 billion
- Greece: $1.4 billion
- Egypt: $1.4 billion
Among France’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, French surpluses with South Korea (up 165.1%), Hong Kong (up 24.4%) and Egypt (up 20.9%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
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 Field Listing: Imports – Commodities. Accessed on September 10, 2019
Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 10, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 10, 2019
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on September 10, 2019
Wikopedia, List of Companies of France. Accessed on September 10, 2019