France shipped US$476.1 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2020. That dollar metric reflects a -14.2% decrease from 2019 to 2020 compared to a -2.9% decrease in value since 2016. The dollar total represents roughly 2.9% of overall global exports estimated at $19.285 trillion one year earlier during 2019 (calculated as of February 14, 2021).
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 2020. Also shown is each importing country’s percentage of total French exports.
- Germany: US$69.1 billion (14.5% of total French exports)
- United States: $37 billion (7.8%)
- Italy: $36.8 billion (7.7%)
- Spain: $35.2 billion (7.4%)
- Belgium: $35.2 billion (7.4%)
- United Kingdom: $30.9 billion (6.5%)
- China: $20.1 billion (4.2%)
- Netherlands: $18.2 billion (3.8%)
- Switzerland: $16.4 billion (3.4%)
- Poland: $10.6 billion (2.2%)
- Singapore: $8 billion (1.7%)
- Turkey: $7.2 billion (1.5%)
- Japan: $6.4 billion (1.4%)
- Hong Kong: $5.93 billion (1.2%)
- Russia: $5.88 billion (1.2%)
Approaching three-quarters (72%) of French exports in 2020 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
The sole increase from 2019 to 2020 belongs to Turkey via an 8.6% increase.
Leading the year-over-year decliners were Japan (down -25.5%), United States (down -21.4%) then United Kingdom (down -18%).
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.
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$44.4 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2020)
- Germany: -$12.3 billion
- Italy: -$7.8 billion
- Netherlands: -$7.7 billion
- Spain: -$5.2 billion
- France: -$5.1 billion
- Vietnam: -$5.1 billion
- Ireland: -$4.7 billion
- Japan: -$3.2 billion
- Czech Republic: -$2.8 billion
Among France’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, France’s deficits with China (up 25.7%), Italy (up 21.5%) and Vietnam (up 12.6%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020. France’s trade balance with Spain went from a $226.2 million surplus for 2019 to a -$5.2 billion deficit in 2020.
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 2020, France incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- United Kingdom: US$11.4 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2020)
- Singapore: $5.6 billion
- Hong Kong: $5.3 billion
- United Arab Emirates: $2.8 billion
- Australia: $2.2 billion
- United States: $1.8 billion
- Algeria: $1.7 billion
- Egypt: $1.6 billion
- Switzerland: $1.5 billion
- Qatar: $1.2 billion
Among France’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, France’s surpluses with Algeria (up 112.3%), United Arab Emirates (up 42.8%) and Australia (up 31%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
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 14, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 14, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on February 14, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 14, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 14, 2021
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on February 14, 2021
Wikopedia, List of Companies of France. Accessed on February 14, 2021