Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the euro appreciated by 3.1% against the US dollar since 2016 and increased by 2% from 2019 to 2020. The stronger European Union currency in 2020 made France’s exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively more expensive for international buyers.
France’s biggest export products by value in 2020 were medication mixes in dosage, aircraft including spacecraft and turbojets; cars; automotive parts or accessories; and wine. In aggregate, those major exports account for 21.9% of overall exports sales from France. The commodities themselves suggest a relatively diversified range of exported goods.
France places number one for exporting wine, ranks among world-leading nations for aircraft parts and is a major competitor for medications and other pharmaceutical shipments.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 68.2% of products exported from France were bought by importers in: Germany (14.5% of the global total), United States (7.8%), Italy (7.7%), Spain (7.4%), Belgium (7.4%), United Kingdom (6.5%), China (4.2%), Netherlands (3.8%), Switzerland (3.4%), Poland (2.2%), Singapore (1.7%) and Turkey (1.5%).
From a continental perspective, 65.9% of France exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 16.8% were sold to Asian importers. France shipped another 9.2% worth of goods to North America. Smaller percentages went to Africa (5.3%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.5%) then Oceania led by Australia (1.1%).
Given France’s population of 65 million people, its total $476.1 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $7,300 for every resident in the European Union member nation.
France’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in French global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from France.
- Machinery including computers: US$54.5 billion (11.5% of total exports)
- Vehicles: $44.3 billion (9.3%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $38.8 billion (8.1%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $37.9 billion (8%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $29.2 billion (6.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $19.3 billion (4.1%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: $17.9 billion (3.8%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $17.5 billion (3.7%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $16.1 billion (3.4%)
- Other chemical goods: $12.8 billion (2.7%)
France’s top 10 export categories accounted for 60.6% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Pharmaceuticals (up 6.7%) were the sole major category to increase in France’s export sales from 2019 to 2020.
The leading decliner among France’s top 10 export categories was aircraft and spacecraft via its -45.3% 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$16.3 billion (Down by -50.5% since 2019)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $12.9 billion (Down by -11.9%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: $12 billion (Down by -12.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $9.2 billion (Down by -12.1%)
- Cereals: $6.6 billion (Up by 3.8%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $4.8 billion (Up by 14.7%)
- Other chemical goods: $3.5 billion (Down by -10.9%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $2.9 billion (Up by 12.8%)
- Live animals: $2.1 billion (Down by -1.4%)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.2 billion (Up by 10.8%)
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.
Overall, France’s incurred a -$93.1 billion trade deficit in 2020 swelling by 12.4% from -$82.8 billion in red ink one year earlier in 2019.
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.
- Ireland: -US$4.7 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2020)
- Saudi Arabia: -$4 billion
- China: -$35.3 billion
- France: -$5.5 billion
- Nigeria: -$3.7 billion
- Netherlands: -$8.7 billion
- Vietnam: -$4.5 billion
- Germany: -$16.9 billion
- Italy: -$6.4 billion
- Belgium: -$4.3 billion
France has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related resources, particularly crude and refined oils, petroleum gases and coal.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate France’s competitive disadvantages in the international fuel market, but also represent key opportunities for France to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations especially in alternative energy sources.
French Export Companies
France placed roughly 70 companies in the Forbes Global 2000 rankings. The following companies are examples of world-leading French companies.
- Total (oil, gas)
- Sanofi (pharmaceuticals)
- EADS (aerospace)
- Christian Dior (clothing, accessories)
- Schneider Electric (electrical equipment)
- Danone (food processing)
- Renault (cars, trucks)
- Saint-Gobain (construction materials)
- Air Liquide (specialized chemicals)
- Safran (aerospace)
- Michelin Group (automotive parts)
- Pernod Ricard (beverages)
Global trade intelligence firm Zepol lists the following smaller French exporters. Selected examples are shown below.
- Transityre France (latex, transmission belts, vehicle tires)
- Hesnault (wines, jams, cheese)
- Mane Fils (aromatic materials)
Searchable List of France’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from France during 2020. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2019.
|Rank||France's Export Product||2020 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Medication mixes in dosage||$28,056,536,000||+7.2%|
|7||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$8,985,736,000||-9.9%|
|8||Cases, handbags, wallets||$8,271,231,000||-4.2%|
|9||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$8,113,871,000||+8.2%|
|13||Processed petroleum oils||$4,729,496,000||-43.6%|
|14||Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)||$4,561,410,000||-17%|
|17||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$4,283,293,000||-8.6%|
|19||Perfumes, toilet waters||$4,189,775,000||-22.3%|
|21||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$3,472,905,000||-1.6%|
|22||Phone system devices||$3,351,166,000||-15.9%|
|24||Miscellaneous plastic items||$2,817,514,000||-3.9%|
|25||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$2,811,204,000||+10.1%|
|26||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$2,715,686,000||+1.5%|
|27||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$2,464,104,000||-11.7%|
|28||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$2,442,062,000||-2.1%|
|29||Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing||$2,364,824,000||+1.7%|
|31||Liquid pumps and elevators||$2,317,376,000||-5%|
|32||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$2,277,256,000||-4.2%|
|33||Rubber tires (new)||$2,254,385,000||-16.3%|
|34||Computers, optical readers||$2,203,694,000||-9.9%|
|36||Air or vacuum pumps||$2,116,955,000||-1.9%|
|40||Other organic cleaning preparations||$1,943,125,000||+0.4%|
|41||Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations||$1,917,147,000||-5.3%|
|43||Iron or steel scrap||$1,780,911,000||-10%|
|45||Chemical industry products/residuals||$1,755,782,000||-6.7%|
|46||Other food preparations||$1,754,370,000||+1.3%|
|47||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$1,725,043,000||-22.1%|
|48||Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)||$1,708,318,000||-12.6%|
|49||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$1,705,957,000||-4.9%|
|52||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$1,672,002,000||-17.1%|
|54||Live bovine cattle||$1,642,568,000||-2.5%|
|55||Piston engine parts||$1,622,807,000||-15.4%|
|57||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$1,542,458,000||-19.2%|
|58||Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)||$1,537,676,000||-17.9%|
|59||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$1,528,412,000||-31.9%|
|61||Ball, roller bearings||$1,492,388,000||-21%|
|62||Electric water heaters, hair dryers||$1,488,167,000||-3.2%|
|63||Electrical converters/power units||$1,478,666,000||-4.9%|
|64||Flat-rolled other alloy steel products||$1,458,653,000||-27.4%|
|65||Heterocyclics, nucleic acids||$1,453,349,000||+3.7%|
|67||Electric motors, generators||$1,430,329,000||-0.1%|
|68||Other diagnostic/lab reagents||$1,428,228,000||+13.9%|
|70||Aluminum plates, sheets, strips||$1,392,182,000||-20.9%|
|73||Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches||$1,360,720,000||-5.3%|
|75||Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)||$1,327,882,000||-4.8%|
|77||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$1,313,319,000||-6%|
|78||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$1,312,251,000||+7.1%|
|79||Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers||$1,304,944,000||-17.4%|
|83||Electric storage batteries||$1,246,146,000||+11.4%|
|85||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$1,224,157,000||-4.6%|
|87||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$1,222,227,000||+2.8%|
|88||Unrecorded sound media||$1,214,205,000||-15.8%|
|89||Electric ignition/start equipment||$1,204,068,000||-4.1%|
|90||Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)||$1,203,064,000||-11.1%|
|92||Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels||$1,159,801,000||-5.2%|
|93||Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream||$1,096,792,000||+15.4%|
|94||Cruise/cargo ships, barges||$1,090,650,000||-39.5%|
|95||Vulcanized rubber items||$1,079,604,000||-12.4%|
|97||Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters||$1,034,271,000||-15.1%|
|98||Liquid/gas checking instruments||$1,022,670,000||-9.6%|
|100||Sugar (cane or beet)||$1,016,084,000||+5.8%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$312.8 billion or almost three-quarters (65.7%) by value for all products exported from France during 2020.
In macroeconomic terms, France’s total exported goods represent 16.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($2.954 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 16.1% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 18.1 for 2019. 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% one year earlier 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
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on May 5, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 5, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on May 5, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on May 5, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 5, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 5, 2021
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on May 5, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on May 5, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of France. Accessed on May 5, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on May 5, 2021
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on May 5, 2021