France is the world’s fourth largest economic power in terms of GDP. The country’s assets are varied and include its transport and telecommunications sectors, food and pharmaceutical industries, along with banking, insurance, tourism and the traditional luxury products (leather goods, ready-to-wear fashion, perfumes, fine wines and spirits, etc.)

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Deux générations de TGV,
en Gare de Lyon (Paris)
© F. de La Mure/MAE

In 2003, France had a trade surplus of €19.3 billion; it is the world’s fourth largest exporter of goods (mainly capital goods) and ranks second in services and agriculture (cereals and foodstuffs in particular). It is the leading producer and exporter of farm products in Europe.

France carries out 70% of its trade with its European Union partners (50% within the euro area).

France ranks fourth internationally for direct inward investment. Foreign investors appreciate the skills of French workers, the advanced level of research, the mastery of high technology, the stable currency and control of production costs.

  • Gross domestic product (GDP) in 2003: €1,551 billion
  • GDP growth (2003): 0.5%
  • Inflation (2003):2.2%
  • Trade surplus (2003): €19.3 billion.


Farms 664.000
Farmers/farm workers 916.000
In-use agricultural area 27,856,000 hectares, 51% of France’s metropolitan area

  • Main agricultural products in France

> Cereals: 69 million metric tons, including 37.3 million metric tons of soft wheat and 16.4 million metric tons of grain maize, 1st producer in the EU, 5th in the world.

> Wine: 52 million hectolitres, 2nd in the world and EU after Italy.

> Milk: 24 million litres, 2nd in the EU, after Germany and 5th in the world.

> Sugar beet: 33.4 million metric tons, 1st in the EU, 2nd in the world.

> Oilseeds: 5 million metric tons, 1st in the EU.

  • Livestock herds

Cattle: 20 million heads
Pigs: 15.3 million heads
Sheep: 9.3 million heads
Goats: 1.2 million heads

Meat production

Beef: 1,9 million metric tons in carcass weight equivalent (cwe)
Pork: 2.3 million cwe
Sheep/goat: 1.45 million cwe
Poultry: 2.3 million cwe.


Woods and forests cover some 16.3 million hectares, 30% of France’s total area.

Forest area in France, placed third in the EU countries, has increased by 46% since 1945 and continues to grow by about 74,000 hectares every year. Most trees are broad-leaved (two thirds), while the remaining third consists of coniferous.

The National Forestry Office (Office national des Forêts - ONF) is responsible for managing national forests (1,760,000 hectares) and those belonging to local authorities (1,810,000 hectares).

The remaining 11,700,000 hectares belong to some 3,500,000 private owners. Forests in France are a source of biological and scenic wealth, a place for excursions and relaxation; they also yield an annual harvest of 52 million cubic metres of timber.


Energy independence: 50.5%
Primary energy consumption: 274.6 million tonne oil equivalent (toe)
Main firms: Total, EDF-GDF

Breakdown of energy consumption

Oil: 40%
Electricity: 36%
Gas: 14%
Coal: 6%
Renewable energies: 4,7%

Net electricity production: 566.9 billion Kwh, of which 77.8% is nuclear-generated
Energy bill: €22.7 billion


Leading industrial sectors in France:

  • Construction and civil engineering

Annual turnover: €131.2 billion.

Five French groups (Bouygues, SGE-Vivendi, GTM-Entrepose, GTM group, Eiffage and Colas) rank among the top European construction firms.

  • Food industries

Annual turnover: €131.2 billion.

Manpower: 418,000

Leading sectors: meat and dairy production, cereals, confectionery, soft and alcoholic beverages. Leading exporter and second largest producer in the EU.

Trade surplus: €7.8 billion.

Number of firms: 4,250

Main firms: Danone, Eridania Beghin-Say, Nestlé France, Besnier, Pernod-Ricard, Seita, Sodiaal, Socopa and Bongrain.

  • Chemicals

Annual turnover: €85 billion

Work force: 234,200

Main firms: Air Liquide, Rhodia, Hutchinson, Atofina.

  • Fashion and luxury goods

This sector includes haute couture, jewellery, luxury leather goods, perfumes, cosmetics and fine glassware.

Main firms: Yves-Saint-Laurent, Vuitton, Chanel, Baccarat, Hermès, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Dior and Cartier.

Annual turnover: €28.8 billion.

Manpower: 182,134.

  • Pharmaceuticals

Annual turnover: €32.85 billion

Manpower: 99,000.

World’s fourth largest producer and fifth largest exporter.

Main firms: Sanofi-Synthélabo, Biomérieux-Pierre Fabre, Servier et Aventis-Pharma (merger of Rhône-Poulenc and the German firm Hoechst).

  • Automobile industry

Annual turnover: €106 billion.

France is the world’s third largest exporter of cars and, in 2002 it had a surplus on its trade in this sector of € 11.2 billion.

PSA (Peugeot-Citroën) and Renault are the two main groups in the sector.5,646,500 vehicles were produced in 2002.

Manpower: 333,000.

  • Materials processing (steel, aluminium, glass, plastics, rubber)

Annual turnover: €59.19 billion

Among the main firms are Usinor group (steel), Pechiney (aluminium) and Saint Gobain, the world’s largest producer and second largest exporter of glass. Plastic Omnium and Sommier Allibert are the two French leaders in plastics processing and Michelin is the world’s leading tires manufacturer.

  • Telecommunications, Information and Communication Technology

Annual turnover: €73 billion.

35 million telephone lines.

100 million phone cards were purchased in 1998.

France Telecom has 48.2% of the market, Cegetel-SFR 34.2% and Bouygues Telecom 17.6%.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of mobile phones, with 37.3 million subscribers in May 2003.

In the telecommunications sector, Alcatel is the fourth largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, and the world leader in transmission systems and submarine cable networks.

Digital television is represented by Thomson Multimédia, which produces digital television decoders.

In 2003 e-commerce generated net sales of €3.4 billion.

  • Aerospace

Annual turnover: €24 billion.

Manpower: 101,500.

Main firms: Matra-Aérospatiale, which is part of the European Airbus Industry consortium, Dassault Aviation, Eurocopter France, Hispano-Suiza and Snecma.

The showcase of the French industry and technology on the Internet:

Research and development

National Research and Development expenditure amounts to €31.44 billion, i.e. 2% of GDP, the fourth highest in the OECD.

The public sector finances 43% of it and is responsible for operating (building maintenance, salaries and laboratory equipment) the major national research centres, which include the CNRS (all fields), INSERM (medicine), INRA (agronomy), etc.

Privately-financed research (57%) focuses on advanced technology sectors such as aerospace, pharmaceuticals, automobile construction, communications equipment and precision instruments.

France ranks third among OECD countries for research, after Japan and the United States.


  • Road network

Densest in the world and longest in the EU with a total of 985,902 km of local, secondary and main roads and motorways, including 10,225 km of motorways (second in Europe).

While 73% of freight is carried by road, use of combined transport is sharply increasing.

  • Rail network

On 1 January 2003, France had 31,986 kilometres of track. France holds the world speed record (515 km/h) with its high-speed train (TGV), which runs on 1,547 kilometres of special track allowing trains in normal commercial operation to travel at 270 kphh or more.

Annual traffic: 315 million passengers on the main network, 83 million on the TGV network, 560 million on the Ile-de-France regional network and 126 billion metric tons of freight.

  • Aviation

Each year over 100 million passengers and 4.8 billion ton-kilometres of freight are carried. 904 aircraft (planes and helicopters) fly under the French flag.

Paris airports:

709,200 annual commercial aircraft movements, 71.5 million passengers (sixth in the world) and 1.83 million metric tons of freight and mail (2003).

  • Merchant fleet

Annually 210 ships (total tonnage of 4.1 million) transport 91.5 million tons of freight. France’s fleet ranks 28th in the world in tonnage.

Marseille is the largest port in France and on the Mediterranean, and the third largest in Europe, handling 95 million tons of goods.

Service Sector

Financial services and banking

Market capitalisation of shares listed on the Paris stock exchange totals €884 billion, 50% of French GDP, ranking Paris seventh in the world.

The leading French banks are Crédit Agricole, Société Générale and Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP).


The French insurance sector has consolidated its position as the fourth largest in the world, with a turnover of €210 billion.

Axa, Europe’s largest insurance company, CNP and AGF are the three main French insurance companies. The life and health policies are continuing to grow (+3%). Business in property insurance (including third party liability) is declining for the first time. The insurance sector provides some 200,000 jobs.


With 75 million foreign tourists in 2003, France is the most visited country in the world.

France has 18,375 hotels, 8,330 camping sites, 900 holiday villages, 190 youth hostels, 63,1258 gîtes (self-catering holidays facilities) and 29,030 chambres d’hôtes (bed and breakfast).

France’s income from tourism (€34.5 million) is the third largest in the world, after the United States and Italy.

The trade surplus in this sector is over €13.1 billion.

Foreign Trade

France is the world’s second largest exporter of services and farm products and fourth largest exporter of goods (mainly capital goods); it had a trade surplus of €19.3 billion in 2003.

French exports, which stood at €401.9 billion in 1999, account for 26.5% of GDP. Imports amounted to €382.6 billion.

These figures show a decrease in the surplus in durable goods (€7.8 billion) and a stable €6.9 billion surplus in farm products. France’s current trade surplus (excluding the defence industry) stands at €10.1 billion.

France’s European Union partners absorb 70% of its trade. The country had a trade surplus of €2.2 billion with the rest of the EU in 2003. France’s main customers are Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain and the United States.

Dernière modification : 12/01/2010

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