France economic partners declared in 2015 a total of 564 billion Euros of goods to the French customs. Where does all the French imports come from? How do they evolve over time and follow world events? Who’s best at selling goods to France?

How to answer these questions?

Accounting imports and exports remains one of the French customs primary missions. Moreover, as part of their Open Data initiative, French customs publish the detailed monthly accounts of external trade.1 These files contains full numbers of exports and imports aggregated by origin, date and category of goods each month, using the CN8 nomenclature. Cleaned and aggregated, this data can give an accurate overview of the French trade in the world.

Visualizing French imports origins

These graphs display all of the French imports, country by country. Choose another country by selecting it on the map. Allow some time for the visualization to load, and discover where do the French imports come from. This best displays on desktop devices, but is still usable on mobile. Also, please note that categories representing less than 10,000 Euros of imports in a month are not displayed in tables and time series. However, these categories count in the totals displayed over the map.

French imports by origin

Looking at French import on a map reveal trends among regions and countries of the world. The following paragraphs describe remarkable imports, important flows or simply fun facts reflecting the state of the global economy and French trade in the world. References link to related content for more information.

Europe, a privileged partner

Most important French economic partners are of course the closest ones. European Union and its single market also helps trade. From these developed countries, France mostly imports products with high added value like cars.

  • Germany remains the best at exporting goods to France, a total of 101 billion Euros of declared goods in 2015.
  • A lot of European countries including Spain, United Kingdom, Italy and others have cars as their top category of exports to France.
  • Watches are still among top Swiss exports.
  • Gas imports from Russia decline since 2012. Contrary to common belief, French gas does not mainly come from Russia.2

Asia, a land of opportunities

Between emerging countries and strong economies, Asian exports may differ a bit than European exports to France.

  • China ranks second after Germany, with about 51 billion Euros of exports to France in 2015, and phones as top category.
  • North-Korea exports forklifts and forklift-related material to France. Surprisingly, all imports from North-Korea seems to be high added value products. Most likely these goods come from  the Kaesong Industrial Zone, where the South-Korean giant Hyundai invested to create facilities.3
  • More surprisingly, Mongolia exports women’s underwear every summer, to France. Actually, Mongolia has a important cashmere production. Cashmere goats represented more than 60% of the total Mongolian livestock in 2016.4
  • Indonesia exported 224 millions Euros of shoes to France in 2015. Only a tiny part of the total shoes exports of the country: 4.1 billion USD in 2014.5

Middle East, the petrol reservoir

French imports from Middle East highly reflects geopolitical tensions in this region.

  • French imports from Syria declined in the last years, because of the Syrian civil war. However, France still imported soap from this country. Indeed, Aleppo soap remains popular in France for its many virtues.6
  • Iran restarted selling petrol to France in April 2016, after the end of the embargo with Europe that lasted from January 23, 2012 to July 14, 2015.7
  • France imports diamonds from Israel, 156 millions Euros in 2015.

Africa, where strategic natural resources come from

France imports a lot of natural resources from Africa, including petrol related products. But some African countries have their specialty, like Niger where France gets all of its uranium.8

  • Congo and its neighbor, Central African Republic, export a lot of wood to France.
  • Gum Arabic comes from Sudan.9
  • Malawi mostly exports tobacco to France. However French tobacco imports from Malawi plunged since 2014.10
  • Ivory Coast exports raw chocolate to France. Too much, according to the Ivorian government who is now trying to encourage exports of finished products, more lucrative for its economy. Therefore, export taxes disappeared for chocolate finished products as of January 1st, 2016.11

Americas, between two continents

Developed in the north, emerging in the south, French imports from Americas also reflect the economical situation of the western hemisphere.

  • USA and Canada top export to France is the same: turbo-jets and plane engines.
  • Paraguay irregularly exports soya beans. However it remains its principal export to France.
  • As expected, Cuba sells a lot of rum and cigars to France. Will France continue to import the same quantity of these high-end substances, at the same price in the future? One of the biggest consumer market in the world is now looming on these luxuries. With the legalization of Cuban imports on its soil, the American government may have changed the deal for Cuba and its clients.12

Oceania, a smaller trade partner

The farthest continent from France have less exchanges. A lot of basic products are here sent to France, like raw fish from Papua New Guinea, or coal form Australia.

And you?

What did you find in these graphs? Please leave a comment with any remarkable French import you found exploring the French customs data.

References

  1. Consulter les statistiques du commerce extérieur de la France.
  2. Idée reçue: Le gaz consommé en France vient principalement de Russie.
  3. Kaesong Industrial Zone introduction.
  4. How Your Cashmere Sweater Is Decimating Mongolia’s Grasslands.
  5. Indonesia Inaugurates $60 Million Nike Shoes Factory in Garut.
  6. Le savon d’Alep dans la tourmente de la guerre civile syrienne.
  7. L’Iran recommence à exporter son pétrole vers l’Europe.
  8. Uranium du Niger : Areva en position de faiblesse ?
  9. La gomme arabique veut s’étendre au-delà du Soudan.
  10. Malawi’s tobacco growers suffering.
  11. La Côte d’Ivoire rêve de chocolat.
  12. Obama lifts restrictions on Cuban rum, cigars.
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