Exporting guide to France

Overview

France is one of the UK's largest export markets and a major global economy. In easy reach of the UK, it offers many export opportunities for businesses offering innovative, quality products.

Opportunities across sectors

With a population of over 65 million, 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.

Café in Paris

France: at a glance

Currency

Euro

Business language

French

You may need a translator

Time zone

GMT +1

Want to see more on France? Sign up for additional market data, content specific to your product or sector and to compare France side by side with other markets.

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:

Check for trade barriers

Trade barriers, such as tariffs or taxes, can raise costs, cause delays, or even stop you from exporting. Check for any issues that may impact your business when exporting.

See current trade barriers

See resolved trade barriers

Check duties and customs

Find information on how to export goods from the UK. View the duties, rules, restrictions, and the documents you need for your products.

See current duties and customs procedures

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.

Services regulations

Information on rules for selling services and business travel to France is available on gov.uk

Trade barriers

Check for any reported barriers to trading with France.

Report any trade barriers that are affecting your business so we can help fix them.

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

Intellectual property (IP) rights are territorial and rights granted in the UK do not provide protection elsewhere. You should consider getting IP protection abroad if you want to trade overseas or sell to overseas customers via the internet.

The Intellectual Property Office provides practical information to help you protect, manage and enforce your IP abroad. Further support for British businesses can be found through a network of IP attachés, based in key UK export markets.

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.