Exporting to France

In easy reach of the UK, France is the UK’s fourth-largest export market (ONS, 2019) and the world’s sixth-largest economy (World Bank, 2019). For UK businesses offering innovative, quality products, the country offers many export opportunities.

Opportunities across sectors

With a population of 64.7 million (IMF, 2019), a strong industrial base, and many large national businesses, France offers good export potential. Aerospace, automotive, energy, transport, agriculture and food are all large sectors. France hosts some of the biggest international trade fairs, offering access to French and international buyers.

Broad and sophisticated consumer base

The French consumer base is varied and sophisticated with high spending power. There is good potential for quality, carefully-packaged and competitively-priced products. Growing interest in responsible consumption as well as healthy and sustainable products also presents opportunities.

Expanding online sales potential

France is the third-biggest e-commerce market in Europe after the UK and Germany. Amazon receives on average 28.8 million unique visits by French shoppers each month (FEVAD, 2018). eBay, La Redoute (fashion), Cdiscount (electronics) and other on-line retailers also offer popular and established routes to the consumer.

Ease of doing business

32nd

out of 190 countries (World Bank, 2020)

Currency

Euro

Business language

French

You may need a translator

GDP per capita

$42,953

UK is $41,030 (IMF, 2019)

Economic growth

1.7%

(IMF, 2019)

Time zone

GMT +1

Opportunities for exporters

There are opportunities for UK companies across a broad range of industries. Our trade advisers in France have identified particular opportunities for UK businesses in the following sectors

Doing business in France

Preparing to export

Taxation

The UK and France have signed a double taxation agreement, meaning the same income is not taxed twice. The French tax service for foreign companies is the Service des impôts des Entreprises Etrangères (SIEE, website in French).

VAT

If you’re registered for VAT in the UK, it may be possible to zero-rate the goods you export to France, provided certain conditions are met.

VAT is known as Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutée (TVA). French VAT rules are based on EU regulations and the standard French rate is 20%.

Advice can be sought from France’s tax authority – the Direction régionale des finances publiques (website in French).

Regulations

Packaging must conform to EU legislation on health risks to consumers and environmental protection. Labelling in French should be visible. Certain products such as foodstuffs and textiles have specific labelling requirements.

The Franco-British Chamber of Commerce & Industry is a good source of advice and information. It offers insight from members who themselves have set up a business in France or have specialist expertise in supporting that process.

Operating in France

Routes to market

Having staff or local representatives with French language capability is necessary for long term success in this market.

Options which may work well for you are:

  • agents and distributors - using local agents or distributors with native fluency in French is an effective way to develop a presence in this market. France’s geographical size means you might need representatives in several regions to ensure national reach.

  • direct sales - due to the closeness of the market, a direct sales approach is possible. The need for French language skills is an important consideration in this option.

  • e-commerce - selling online or through e-marketplaces may be a good option for your company. It’s relatively cheap and easy to deliver products into France. DIT can suggest online marketplaces to help you get started. DIT’s E-Exporting Programme can also help.

The Franco British Chamber of Commerce is a useful source of further information on routes to market in France.

Intellectual property

As a first step, we advise you to speak to an intellectual property lawyer if you think you need patent protection when exporting.

Patent protection law is not standardised in the EU. You can apply for a French patent at L’Institut National de Propriété Industrielle (website in French), or for a European patent through the European Patent Office. A European patent needs to be validated by L’Institut National de Propriété Industrielle.

Payment terms

Your contract should specify terms for payment. If there’s any dispute you will need to go through the French legal system for resolution. French customers may require credit to buy your products. Payment conditions must be factored into prices. For business-to-business transactions these can range from immediate payments on receipt of goods (often with a negotiated small discount) to a negotiated 60-day payment.

Business culture

Regular meetings and visits are important to build relationships. The market is competitive and a strong unique selling point is helpful. Speaking French can be an important step in building relationships.

Next steps

DIT can advise you on doing business abroad, and help put you in touch with other people who can help such as lawyers and distributors.