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Exporting to France: What You Need to Know

On: April 1, 2024    |    By: David Noah David Noah    |    11 min. read

Exporting to France: What You Need to Know | Shipping Solutions

With an average of almost $350 million in commercial transactions taking place every day, France is the world’s seventh-largest economy and Europe’s third-largest economy after Germany and the UK. France’s stable business climate attracts investors from around the world; the French government makes doing business relatively easy by devoting significant resources to supporting foreign investment through policy, good marketing, overseas trade promotion offices and investor support mechanisms.

France and the U.S. share common values and have similar policies on most political, economic and security issues, making it an important market both historically and for the future. In this article, I’ll look at the history of U.S. trade with France; the process of exporting to France, including documentation and compliance requirements; and the benefits and considerations for U.S. companies looking to break into the French marketplace.

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Trade and Exporting to France

Since first establishing diplomatic relations in 1778, the U.S.-French commercial and economic alliance has historically been strong and active. In fact, the first trade agreement for the U.S. was the Treaty of Amity and Commerce—an FTA between the United States and France. France initiated the G-20, is host to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and is a member of the G-7, the European Union and the World Trade Organization, confirming its status as a leading economic player globally.

As of 2022, France had an estimated $2.63 trillion GDP, composed of substantial agricultural resources and a still-strong manufacturing sector (though this has recently declined). The French government launched an investment package in late 2021 called “France 2030” to bolster competitiveness, increase productivity and accelerate the transition to green activities. The years between 2013 and 2022 saw a 45% increase in exports from the U.S. France is the United States’ third-largest trading partner in Europe. In 2023, exports to France totaled $44 billion according to the Census Bureau.

Exporting to France: The Challenges

French policy poses relatively few formal barriers to U.S. trade or investment. According to the France Country Commercial Guide, any market challenges that do exist are likely related to the following:

  • The impact of the war in Ukraine and measures by the EU and French government to mitigate the fallout.
  • Supply chain disruptions post-pandemic that continue to affect the macroeconomic environment in France and across Europe, and the extent of the French government’s continued support for the economic recovery.
  • The creation of winners and losers resulting from the France 2030 green transition.
  • French and European regulations and standards for selling products in France. French interpretation of existing EU regulations is more stringent than other member states and regulates areas where the EU has not yet proposed legislation.
  • France’s highly concentrated retail distribution chains and networks. According to the ITA, many French global manufacturers and suppliers exercise strong control over these retail networks, with well-organized buying offices that have put in place very stringent selection processes for new suppliers, products and services. To find success, exporters must anticipate high retail mark-ups and use innovative and creative marketing approaches when entering the French retail market.
  • While French buyers can be receptive to new and innovative products, there is a tendency to stick with known local suppliers.

While U.S. exporters must be aware of these barriers when exporting to France, exporters of all sizes can absolutely be successful in the French market with careful planning and assistance from agencies like the U.S. Commercial Service.

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Exporting to France: The Opportunities

In most situations, the potential rewards of exporting to France outweigh any challenges exporters may face. Exporters should identify and cultivate business opportunities while building a strategy to minimize the risks.

France is an economically refined nation with a large, diverse and sophisticated consumer base and affluent consumer population (specifically in the digital, educational and travel sectors). Interestingly, young, environmentally-conscious French consumers and changing lifestyles are contributing to France’s import demand for American consumer and food products.

The following are identified as the top sectors for U.S. exports to France:

  • Industrial chemicals
  • Aerospace, aircraft and engines
  • Food products
  • Franchising
  • Travel and tourism
  • Electronic components
  • Telecommunications
  • Computer software
  • Computers and peripherals
  • Analytical and scientific instrumentation
  • Healthcare and medical instruments and supplies
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Broadcasting equipment
  • Renewable energy technologies
  • Microelectronics
  • Logistics
  • Biotechnology
  • Telecommunications
  • Information and communication technology
  • E-commerce
  • E-mobility
  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Smart cities

Export Assistance

The best thing about exploring the opportunities to export to France is knowing you don’t need to go it alone. You can rely on assistance from your in-country allies, including the U.S. Commercial Service office, trade missions and chambers of commerce.

U.S. Commercial Service Offices

One of the first places to consider are your local and in-country U.S. Commercial Service offices. The Commercial Service in-country offices offer U.S. exporters business partners in France—boots on the ground in the country. Commercial service offices also include representation by an agent, distributors or partners who can provide essential local knowledge and contacts that can be critical for your success.

You can learn more about in-country offices in our article, Tapping into the U.S. Commercial Service's In-Country Offices.

District Export Councils (DECs)

DECs across the country help exporters by supporting trade and services that strengthen individual companies, stimulate U.S. economic growth and create jobs. DEC members also serve as mentors to new exporters and can provide advice to smaller companies.

Trade Missions

Sponsored by state and local trade offices as well as commercial service offices, trade missions are a great way to get introduced to and network with contacts. Check into them.

International Trade Administration (ITA)

The ITA is an excellent resource to help you combat trade problems. ITA staff are resident experts in advocating for U.S. businesses of all sizes. They customize their services to help solve your trade dilemmas as efficiently as possible. Plus, the ITA makes it easy to report a problem, allowing you to submit your report online.

Chambers of Commerce

Chambers of Commerce may also be a resource when exporting to France. You can learn more about various chambers and how they can help smooth the way for your export activities in our article, The Chamber of Commerce Role in Exporting.

Export Document Requirements for France

Export documentation and attention to procedures are as critical in exporting to France as they are for exporting to any other country. An import license is not needed to import the majority of industrial goods into the EU; however, some industrial goods require import licenses issued by the Import Licensing Branch (ILB) as a result of controls imposed at national, EU and United Nations levels.

Documents you’ll need to export to France (and the European Union) from the U.S. will vary depending on your products, but may include:

Make sure you're using the right export documents. Download the free  Beginner's Guide to Export Forms.

Export Compliance Issues When Exporting to France

It’s important to understand the regulations covering exports to France, especially export controls.

Product Classification for Export Controls

The first step in ensuring export compliance is determining who has jurisdiction over your goods: the U.S. Department of Commerce under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) or the State Department's International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

If your goods fall under the jurisdiction of the Commerce Department—which most products do—you must determine if your export requires authorization from the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS, part of the Commerce Department). To make that determination, first answer the following questions:

  • What is the Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) of the item?
  • Where is it going?
  • Who is the end user?
  • What is the end use?

There are three ways to classify your products for export controls: You can self-classify your products, submit a SNAP-R request for a ruling, or rely on the product vendor to provide the information. Learn about that process in our article, Export Controls: ECCN vs. HS, HTS and Schedule B. By classifying your product correctly, you’ll be protecting yourself from potential fines, penalties and even jail time.

Export License Determination

Next, companies must use the ECCN codes and reasons for control described above to determine whether or not there are any restrictions for exporting their products to specific countries. Once they know why their products are controlled, exporters should refer to the Commerce Country Chart in the EAR to determine if a license is required.

Download the free whitepaper: How to Determine If You Need an Export License

Although a relatively small percentage of all U.S. exports and reexports require a BIS license, virtually all exports and many reexports to embargoed destinations and countries designated as supporting terrorist activities require a license. Countries fitting that bill are Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria.

Part 746 of the EAR describes embargoed destinations and refers to certain additional controls imposed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department.

Shipping Solutions Professional export documentation and compliance software includes an Export Compliance Module that uses the ECCN code for your product(s) and the destination country to tell you if an export license is required. If indicated, you must apply to BIS for an export license through the online Simplified Network Application Process Redesign (SNAP-R) before you can export your products.

There are export license exceptions, like low-value or temporary exports, that allow you to export or reexport, under stated conditions, items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) that would otherwise require a license. These license exceptions cover items that fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce, not items controlled by the State Department or some other agency.

Deemed Exports

Surprise! You may be an exporter without even knowing it! Deemed exports, or the disclosure of information or services rather than an actual product, is an important issue to pay attention to when exporting. A deemed export occurs when technology or source code (except encryption and object source code, which is separately addressed in the EAR under 734.2(b)(9)), is released to a foreign national within the United States.

Sharing technology, reviewing blueprints, conducting tours of facilities, and other information disclosures are considered potential exports under the deemed export rule and should be handled accordingly. You can learn how to apply this principle here.

Restricted Party Screenings

Restricted party lists (also called denied party lists) are lists of organizations, companies or individuals that various U.S. agencies—and other foreign governments—have identified as parties that one can’t do business with. There are several reasons why a person or company may be added to a restricted party list. For example, they may be a terrorist organization or affiliated with such an organization; they may have a history of corrupt business practices; or they may otherwise pose a threat to national security.

Restricted party screening (or denied party screening) refers to the process in which a company checks a potential customer or business partner against one or more of the restricted party lists to ensure their potential partners are legally accepted. The primary restricted party lists in the United States are published by the Department of Commerce, Department of State, and Department of Treasury. However, several other agencies produce lists as well. These agencies recommend that companies perform restricted party screening periodically and repeatedly throughout the movement of goods in the supply chain.

When exporting to France, it’s imperative you check every single restricted party list every time you export because:

  • Fines for export violations can reach up to $1 million per violation in criminal cases (Bureau of Industry and Security).
  • Administrative cases can result in a penalty amounting to $250,000 or twice the value of the transaction, whichever is greater.
  • Criminal violators may be sentenced to prison for up to 20 years, and administrative penalties may include denial of export privileges.

Export Documentation and Compliance Software

If you’re considering exporting to France, Shipping Solutions export documentation software can help you quickly create the necessary documents and stay compliant with export regulations. Register for a free demo of the Shipping Solutions software to see how it can revolutionize the way you’re currently creating your export paperwork.

This is one in a series of articles exploring exporting to specific countries across the globe—we previously featured China, the United Kingdom, Japan, Mexico, Canada, India, Brazil, and Germany.

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David Noah

About the Author: David Noah

David Noah is the founder and president of Shipping Solutions, a software company that develops and sells export documentation and compliance software targeted at U.S. companies that export. David is a frequent speaker on export documentation and compliance issues and has published several articles on the topic.

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