With a GDP of $1.4 trillion, France is the fourth-largest Western industrialized economy. It has substantial agricultural resources, a large industrial base, and a highly skilled work force. A dynamic services sector accounts for an increasingly large share of economic activity (72% in 1997) and is responsible for nearly all job creation in recent years. GDP growth averaged 2% between 1994 and 1998, with 3% recorded in 2000.
Government economic policy aims to promote investment and domestic growth in a stable fiscal and monetary environment. Creating jobs and reducing the high unemployment rate has been a top priority. The Government of France has successfully reduced a double-digit unemployment rate in excess of 10% to 8%-9%, recently. France joined 10 other European Union countries in adopting the euro as its currency in January 1999. Henceforth, monetary policy will be set by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.
Despite significant reform and privatization over the past 15 years, the government continues to control a large share of economic activity: Government spending, at 53% of GDP in 2000, is the highest in the G-7. Regulation of labor and product markets is pervasive. The government continues to own shares in corporations in a range of sectors, including banking, energy production and distribution, automobiles, transportation, and telecommunications.
Legislation passed in 1998 shortened the legal workweek from 39 to 35 hours effective January 1, 2000. A key objective of the legislation is to encourage job creation, for which significant new subsidies will be made available. It is difficult to assess the impact of workweek reduction on growth and jobs since many of the key economic parameters, such as the impact on labor costs and company's ability to reorganize work schedules, will depend on the outcome of labor-management negotiations which should extend through 2000 and beyond.
France has been very successful in developing dynamic telecommunications, aerospace, and weapons sectors. With virtually no domestic oil production, France has relied heavily on the development of nuclear power, which now accounts for about 80% of the country's electricity production. Nuclear waste is stored on site at reprocessing facilities.
Membership in France's labor unions accounts for less than 10% of the private sector workforce and is concentrated in the manufacturing, transportation, and heavy industry sectors. Most unions are affiliated with one of the competing national federations, the largest and most powerful of which are the communist-dominated General Labor Confederation, the Workers' Force, and the French Democratic Confederation of Labor.
France is the second-largest trading nation in western Europe (after Germany). Its foreign trade balance for goods has been in surplus since 1992, reaching $25.4 billion in 1998. Total trade for 1998 amounted to $730 billion, or 50% of GDP--imports plus exports of goods and services. Trade with EU countries accounts for 60% of French trade.
In 1998, U.S.-France trade totaled about $47 billion--goods only. According to French trade data, U.S. exports accounted for 8.7%--about $25 billion--of France's total imports. U.S. industrial chemicals, aircraft and engines, electronic components, telecommunications, computer software, computers and peripherals, analytical and scientific instrumentation, medical instruments and supplies, broadcasting equipment, and programming and franchising are particularly attractive to French importers.
Principal French exports to the United States are aircraft and engines, beverages, electrical equipment, chemicals, cosmetics, and luxury products. France is the ninth-largest trading partner of the U.S.
France is the European Union's leading agricultural producer, accounting for about one-third of all agricultural land within the EU. Northern France is characterized by large wheat farms. Dairy products, pork, poultry, and apple production are concentrated in the western region. Beef production is located in central France, while the production of fruits, vegetables, and wine ranges from central to southern France. France is a large producer of many agricultural products and is currently expanding its forestry and fishery industries. The implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Uruguay Round of the GATT Agreement have resulted in reforms in the agricultural sector of the economy.
France is the world's second-largest agricultural producer, after the United States. However, the destination of 70% of its exports are other EU member states. Wheat, beef, pork, poultry, and dairy products are the principal exports. The United States, although the second-largest exporter to France, faces stiff competition from domestic production, other EU member states, and other third countries. U.S. agricultural exports to France, totaling some $600 million annually, consist primarily of soybeans and products, feeds and fodders, seafood, and consumer oriented products, especially snack foods and nuts. French exports to the United States are mainly cheese, processed products and wine. They amount to more than $900 million annually.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $1.373 trillion (1999 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 2.7% (1999 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $23,300 (1999 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
services: 70.6% (1998)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.5%
highest 10%: 24.9% (1989)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 0.5% (1999 est.)
Labor force: 25.4 million (1994)
Labor force - by occupation: services 69%, industry 26%, agriculture 5% (1995)
Unemployment rate: 11% (1999 est.)
revenues: $325 billion
expenditures: $360 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (1999 est.)
Industrial production growth rate: 2% (1999 est.)
Electricity - production: 480.972 billion kWh (1998)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 10.77%
other: 0.54% (1998)
Electricity - consumption: 389.254 billion kWh (1998)
Electricity - exports: 62 billion kWh (1998)
Electricity - imports: 3.95 billion kWh (1998)
Exports: $304.7 billion (f.o.b., 1999)
Imports: $280.8 billion (f.o.b., 1999)
Debt - external: $117.6 billion (1996 est.)
Economic aid - donor: ODA, $6.3 billion (1997)
Currency: 1 French franc (F) = 100 centimes
euros per US$1 - 0.9867 (January 2000), 0.9386 (1999); French francs (F) per US$1 - 5.65 (January 1999), 5.8995 (1998), 5.8367 (1997), 5.1155 (1996), 4.9915 (1995)
note: on 1 January 1999, the EU introduced a common currency that is now being used by financial institutions in some member countries at a fixed rate of 6.55957 French francs per euro; the euro will replace the local currency in consenting countries for all transactions in 2002
Fiscal year: calendar year