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Last updated : Nov 2009
France Business
France Business Overview - TravelPuppy.com
France Economy

France has the fourth-largest economy in the world, after the USA, Germany, Japan, and has an annual per capita income of US$23,000.

France has a wide industrial and commercial base, covering everything from agriculture to light and heavy industrial concerns, the most advanced technology and a burgeoning service sector. It is also Western Europe’s leading agricultural nation with over half of the country’s land area devoted to farming. Wheat is the most important crop, maize, sugar beet and barley are also produced in large quantities. The country is self-sufficient in these (which are produced in sufficient surplus for major exports) and the majority of other common crops. The livestock industry is expanding rapidly.

France is one of the world’s leading wine producers. Despite the widespread belief in some quarters that French agriculture is inefficient, the sector has regularly turned in good profit margins and a sound export performance.

French companies are prominent in many industries, particularly steel, motor vehicles, aircraft, mechanical and electrical engineering, chemicals, textiles, and food processing. In advanced industrial sectors, France has one of the world’s largest nuclear power industries, which meets nearly three-quarters of the country’s energy requirements, and is a world leader in computing and telecommunications. The service sector is dominated by tourism, which has long been a major foreign currency earner, although financial services have also grown rapidly since the early 1990s.

Recent economic policy has been characterised by a gradual relinquishing of state holdings in ‘strategic’ industries as well as a steady reduction in government spending. Economic growth has been sluggish for the last 2.5 years, and is still below 1 per cent. France suffers from a relatively high unemployment rate of 9 per cent, which is climbing again after several years of decline.

France was a founder member of the European Community and has benefited greatly from its participation. It was also a founder member of the European Monetary Union and adopted the euro upon its inception. The EU, especially Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain and the UK, accounts for the bulk of French trade. Outside the European Union, the USA and Japan are its principal trading partners.

Business Etiquette

Conservative clothes are generally worn at business meetings in France. Prior appointments are expected and the use of business cards is usual. While a knowledge of French is a distinct advantage in business dealings, it is considered impolite to start a conversation in French and then have to revert to English. Business meetings tend to be formal and business decisions are taken only after lengthy discussion, with many facts and figures to back up sales presentations.

Business entertaining is usually in restaurants. Avoid the holiday period of mid July to mid September for business visits.

Office hours

Generally Monday-Friday 0900 hrs -1200 hrs, 1400 hrs -1800 hrs.


Commercial Information

The following organisations can offer advice:

Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris, 27 Avenue de Friedland, 75382 Paris, Cedex 08 (telephone number: (1) 5565 5565, fax number: (1) 5565 7668, e-mail: del-paris@ccip.fr, website: www.ccip.fr)

Centre de Renseignements des Douanes,
84 rue d’Hauteville, 75498 Paris (telephone number: (0825) 308 263, fax number: (1) 5324 6830, e-mail: crd-ile-de-france@douane.finances.gouv.fr website: www.douane.gouv.fr) and

Assemblée des Chambres Francaises de Commerce et d’Industrie, 45 Avenue d’iena, 75116 Paris, Cedex 16 (telephone number: (1) 4069 3700; fax number: (1) 4720 6128, e-mail: mailto:contactsweb@acfci.cci.fr).

Conferences/Conventions

Paris is the world’s leading conference city, with the total amount of seating available of over 100,000 seats, exceeding that of any rival city. Also in demand are the Riviera towns of Nice and Cannes, the Acropolis Centre in Nice being the largest single venue in Europe, other centres are Lyon, Strasbourg and Marseille.

The Business Travel Club (CFTAR) is a government-sponsored association of cities, departments, convention centres, hotels and other organisations interested in providing meeting facilities and incentives with over 80 members. Enquiries should be made through the French Government Tourist Office, which in several cities has a special department for business travel, these include London, Frankfurt/M, Düsseldorf, Milan, Madrid and Chicago. The following organisation can offer advice: Maison de la France, Conference and Incentive Department, 178 Piccadilly, London W1J 9AL (telephone number: (020) 7399 3521, fax number: (020) 7493 6594, e-mail: rachel.sobel@franceguide.com, website: www.franceguide.com).