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, agri-foodstuffs 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.).

In 2000 France had a trade surplus of 14.03 billion euros; it is the world’s fourth largest exporter of goods (mainly durables) and ranks second in services and agriculture (cereals and agri-foodstuffs in particular). It is the leading producer and exporter of farm products in Europe.

France carries out 63% 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 (2000): 1,404.8 billion euros
- GDP growth (2000): 3.1%
- Inflation (2000): 1.6%
- Trade surplus (2000): 14.03 billion euros


Farms: 680,000

Farmers/farm workers: 885,000

Utilized agricultural area: 33,000,000 hectares, 60% of the area of metropolitan France.

Principal agricultural products in France

> Cereals: 1st in the EU, 5th in the world (66 million tonnes, including 35.9 million tonnes of soft wheat and 16 million tonnes of grain maize).

> Wine: 2nd in the world and EU after Italy (54 million hectolitres).

> Milk: 2nd in the EU, after Germany and 5th in the world (23 million litres).

> Sugar beet: 1st in the EU, 2nd in the world (31 million tonnes).

> Oilseeds: 1st in the EU (5.5 million tonnes).

Animal herds

Cattle: 20 million

Pigs: 16 million

Sheep: 9.4 million

Goats: 1 million

Meat production

Beef: 1,9 million tonne-carcass-equivalent (tce)

Pork: 2.3 million tce

Sheep/goat: 1.45 million tce

Poultry: 2.3 million tce.


Woods and forests cover some 16 million hectares, 29% of France’s total area, placing France third in the EU countries in terms of forest area. Forest area in France has increased by 35% since 1945 and continues to grow by about 51,000 hectares each year.

Most trees are deciduous (two thirds), while the remaining third consists of conifers. The National Forestry Office (Office national des Forêts - ONF) is responsible for managing national forests (1,750,000 hectares) and those belonging to local authorities (2,850,000 hectares).

The remaining 10,500,000 hectares belong to some 3,800,000 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 53 million cubic metres of timber.

The violent storms of December 1999 resulted in damage estimated at 30 million cubic metres.


Energy independence: 49%

Primary energy consumption: 253.6 million tonne oil equivalent (toe).

Main companies in this sector: TOTAL FINA ELF, EDF-GDF

Breakdown of energy consumption

40 %

36 %

14 %

6 %

4,7 %
Renewable energy

Net electricity production: 509 billion kWh, of which 76% is nuclear-generated.

Energy bill: 11.7 billion euros.


Leading industrial sectors in France

Construction and civil engineering

Annual turnover: 93.15 billion euros.

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


Annual turnover: 111.9 billion euros.

Workforce: 398,000.

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

Trade surplus: 7.17 billion euros.

Number of firms: 4,200.

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


Annual turnover: 70.126 billion euros.

Workforce: 236,500.

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 groups: Yves-Saint-Laurent, Vuitton, Chanel, Baccarat, Hermès, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Dior, Cartier, etc.

Turnover: 31.4 billion euros.

Workforce: 222,000.


Annual turnover: 28.4 billion euros.

Workforce: 94,500.

World’s fourth largest producer and fifth largest exporter.

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

Automobile industry

Annual turnover: 95.22 billion euros.

France is the world’s third largest exporter of cars and, in 1999, had a surplus on its trade in this sector of 8.22 billion euros.

PSA (Peugeot-Citroën) and Renault are the two main groups in the sector.

5,322,000 vehicles were produced in 2000.

Workforce: 271,920.

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

Annual turnover: 42.79 billion euros

Among the main firms are the Usinor group (steel), Péchiney (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 tyre manufacturer.

Telecommunications and information and communication technology

Annual turnover: 67.23 billion euros.

34 million telephone lines.

100 million phone cards purchased in 1998.

France Telecom has 49.5% of the market, Cegetel-SFR 37.5% and Bouygues Telecom 13%.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of mobile phones, with 19 million subscribers in January 2000.

Turnover: 28.356 billion euros

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 Multimédias, which produces digital television decoders.

E-commerce represents a turnover of 2.29 billion euros.


Annual turnover: 19.85 billion euros.

Workforce: 95,300.

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

Showcase for French industry and technology:

Research and development

National R & D expenditure amounts to 28.66 billion euros i.e. 2.2% of GDP, the third highest in the OECD.

The public sector finances 46% 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 (54%) 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 965,916 km of local, secondary and main roads and motorways, including 10,000 km of motorways (second in Europe).

While 76% of freight is carried by road, use of combined transport is sharply increasing.

Rail network

On 1 January 2000, 31,770 km of track. France holds the world speed record (515 km/h) with its high-speed train (TGV), which runs on 1,281 kilometres of special track allowing trains in normal commercial operation to travel at 270 km/h or more.

Annual traffic: 295 million passengers on the main network, 71 million on the TGV network, 528 million on the Ile-de-France regional network and 133.8 billion tonnes of freight.


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

Paris airports:

747,500 annual commercial aircraft movements (2000), 76.6 million passengers (eighth in the world) and 1.7 million tonnes of freight and mail (2000).

Merchant fleet

Annually 210 ships (total tonnage of 4.1 million) transport 91.5 million tonnes 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 tonnes of goods.

Service sector

Financial services and banking

Market capitalization of shares listed on the Paris stock exchange totals 1,496 billion euros, 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 155.5 billion euros.

Axa, Europe’s largest insurance company, CNP and AGF are the three main French insurance companies. The life and health classes of insurance are continuing to grow (+8%). Business in property insurance (including third party liability) is declining for the first time.

The insurance sector provides some 200,000 jobs.


With 71 million foreign tourists, France is the most visited country in the world.

France has

• 20,000 hotels,

• 8,000 camping sites,

• 890 holiday villages,

• 181 youth hostels,

• 41,000 gîtes,

• 22,000 chambres d’hôtes (bed and breakfast).

France’s income from tourism (25.6 billion euros) is the third largest in the world, after the United States and Italy. The trade surplus in this sector is over 10.67 billion euros.

Foreign trade

France is the world’s second largest exporter of services and farm products and fourth largest exporter of goods (principally durables). It had a trade surplus of 14.03 billion euros in 2000. French exports, which stood at 283.91 billion euros in 1999, account for 26% of GDP. Imports amounted to 274 billion euros.

These figures show a sharp increase in the surplus in durable goods (8.38 billion euros) and a 7.17 billion euros surplus in farm products.

France’s current trade surplus (excluding the defence industry) stands at 11.28 billion euros.

France’s European Union partners absorb 63% of its trade. The country had a trade surplus of 6.1 billion euros with the rest of the EU in 1999. France’s main customers are Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain and the United States.

Online 29/09/2005

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