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flag France France: Selling and Buying

In this page: Market Access Procedures | Reaching the Consumers | Distributing a Product | Organizing Goods Transport | Identifying a Supplier


Market Access Procedures

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of OECD
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
Party of the International Coffee Agreement 2001
Main International Economic Cooperation
Member of the European Union
Member of the European Economic Area which has guaranteed, since 1 January 1993, the free movement of most goods between European countries.
Multilateral agreements and bilateral agreements with many countries.
Non Tariff Barriers
At the European level, agricultural products are protected within the Common Agricultural Policy and textile products from China, Belarus, North Korea, Montenegro, Kosovo and Uzbekistan are subject to particular formalities and import licenses or control procedures (export document, monitoring document).
At the national level, trade in plants and seeds, aircraft, and others has to be declared; they have to be certified respectively by the GNIS (the national interprofessional organization for seeds and plants), the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Agriculture. Among the non-tariff barriers are France's regulations and bureaucratic procedures, its complex safety standards, and the testing and certification requirements.
Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
Operations carried out within the EEA are free of duty.
The Common Customs Tariff of the European Union applies to goods originating outside Europe. Generally the duty is relatively low, especially for industrial products (4.2% on average).

Customs Classification
The Combined Nomenclature of the European Community (EC) integrates the HS nomenclature and supplements it with its own subheadings with an eight digit code number and its own Legal Notes created for Community purposes.
Import Procedures
For goods of a value under 1,000 kg or 1,000 EUR, a verbal declaration at customs, and presenting the invoice, is sufficient.
For higher values, you must declare it at the Customs Office:
1) a brief declaration (air or maritime manifest) to conclude the collection of the goods.
2) a common law declaration (SAD, single administrative document), as well as the accompanying documents to allow their clearance.
The SAD form can be obtained from Chambers of Commerce or an approved printer.

An online clearance platform by automated transmission (DELTA) is accessible from the portal PRODOUANE (in French).

In the case of deliveries and purchases within the European Community, the declaration of exchange of goods (DEB) or Intrastat declaration must be sent to the Customs Service.

As part of the "SAFE" standards advocated by the World Customs Organization (WCO), the European Union has set up a new system of import controls, the "Import Control System" (ICS), which aims to secure the flow of goods at the time of their entry into the customs territory of the EU. This control system, part of the Community Program eCustomer, has been in effect since January 1, 2011. Since then, operators are required to pass an Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) to the customs of the country of entry, prior to the introduction of goods into the customs territory of the European Union.

The Modernized Customs Code entered into force in 2008 simplifies procedures, for example computerizing and centralizing transactions.

Since July 1, 2009, all companies established outside of the EU are required to have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number if they wish to lodge a customs declaration or an Entry/Exit Summary declaration.

Importing Samples
For the import, export and re-export of commercial samples the ATA (Temporary Admission) book can be used. It must be written on the product that it is a free sample and that it may not be sold.
For Further Information
French Customs website
France Trade Portal
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry

Learn more about Traders, Agents in France on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

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Reaching the Consumers

Marketing Opportunities

Consumer Behavior
Traditionally, price has been an essential element in the French consumer's buying process. However, quality is becoming more and more important for the French consumer who is now tending to favor products which have a quality label or mark. The quality of after-sales service is a decisive element in choosing where to buy. Consumers prefer neat and tightly packaged products that are creative and eye-catching.
Consumer Profile and Purchasing Power
France, with its aging population, is a country where buying most often equals pleasure. France is famous for its high consumption of leisure and culture products and gifts. The French consumer, relatively affluent, is impulsive, makes frequent purchases and like to try new and innovative products. As regards foodstuffs, the French are more likely to buy domestic products, and are increasingly concerned about the environment and their health (booming organic products).
Consumers Associations
The French Consumer Institute
UFC Que Choisir , The Federal Union of Consumers
ECC , The European Consumer Centre in France
The French Consumer Association
Main Advertising Agencies
Publicis Groupe SA
Saatchi & Saatchi

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Distributing a Product

Evolution of the Sector
Retail and distribution is an important, dynamic and highly sophisticated and competitive sector of activity in France. The retail distribution chains and networks are highly concentrated. In many sectors, independent wholesale and retail outlets are disappearing rapidly and being replaced by retail distribution chains and networks. Small and medium-sized family-owned firms, which traditionally accounted for a majority of French wholesale and retail trade, are rapidly losing ground to hypermarkets. At the same time, direct marketing, Internet sales, and specialized chain stores have shown strong growth. The wholesale trade represents 172,000 companies and a 53.6 billion EUR turnover. The retail trade represents 350,000 companies and a 360 billion EUR turnover. The setting up of hypermarkets is regulated by the Royer Law of 1973 and the Raffarin Law of 1996 ; they aim to protect local shops, rapidly losing grounds to hypermarkets. France's retail distribution network is diverse and sophisticated.
Market Shares
Mass marketing dominates the retail trade sector in France with, in 2012, 7,619 supermarkets and hypermarkets and 4,717 hard discount stores. In 2011, sales realised by supermarkets, hypermarkets, convenience stores and gourmet centers in department stores represented 77% of the country’s retail food sector. At the same period, traditional outlets represented 23% of the market. In 2012, the top five hypermarket companies were Auchan, Leclerc, Intermarché, Casino, and Carrefour; the top four supermarket companies were Intermarché, Carrefour, Casino and Systeme U; and the top five hard-discount companies were Lidl, Dia, Aldi, Casino and Intermarché. Leclerc Drive dominated the click and drive market, followed by Carrefour Drive.
Organizations in the Retail Sector
The Federation of Trade and Distribution Companies (FCD)
The associated trade stores
The French Trade Council

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Organizing Goods Transport

Main Useful Means of Transport
Goods transport (national and international) in France is dominated by road transport, with more than 2 billion goods transported every year. Road transport of goods is above all practical. Plans for putting trucks on trains and reviving the use of waterways could advance the development of a form of transport other than road, but their potential remains limited.


International goods transport for its part is dominated by sea transport. This means of transport is economical and France is easy to access because of its extensive sea coast. Five of the fifteen biggest European ports are located in France; they are linked with each other and serve the other large European centers of consumption in the North and in the South thanks to an extensive networking of shipping lines. The ports represent 85% in volume and 66% in value of French foreign trade.

Le Havre
Nantes Saint Nazaire
Paris - Airport Roissy-Charles de Gaulle
Sea Transport Organizations
The Ministry of equipment, transport and housing
Air Transport Organizations
The Ministry of equipment, transport and housing
Road Transport Organizations
The Ministry of equipment, transport and housing
Rail Transport Organizations
The Ministry of equipment, transport and housing

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Identifying a Supplier

Type of Production
In France, industry represents 20% of the GDP and 17% of employment.
The pharmaceutical, aeronautical, and new information and communication technology (NICT) industries have an important place on the French industrial scene.

Business Directories

Multi-sector Directories
Agrocontact - Food industry companies
FEL PARTENARIAT - List of affiliated importers, wholesalers, exporters of fruits and vegetables.
Franchise Direct France - Browse franchises listed by industry. Choose the best franchise opportunity from these industry categories.
Hotels de France - Hotel booking in France.
Members of the UNCGFL - The UNCGFL is the Federation of Fruits and Vegetables Wholesalers.
Meuble Deco Directory - French importers of furniture.
ABC France - B2B information in France. - France - Directory of companies in France.
Firma France - Official French exporters B2B directory.
FirmaFrance - is the official French exporters B2B directory, powered by Ubifrance and officially endorsed by the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry of France. Dedicated to foreign companies seeking reliable suppliers and partners in France. - Directory of French companies.
French Advisor for Foreign Trade - Members of the French Council of Foreign Trade Counselors.
Indexa - Online directory of professionals and companies.
MacRAE'S Blue Book - Business directory with detailed information of companies in Europe. - Directory of companies in France.
Société.com - Find a company in France.
The professional pages - B2B directory.
The Yellow Pages - Find a business in France.
Manufacturers Associations of the Main Industries
119 professional associations listed for France.
Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
The French confederation of trade between companies
Portal for Chambers of Commerce and Industry
The Assembly of French Chambers of Commerce and Industry
Enterprises Federation
The government information website for SMEs
Net PME, the information website for SMEs
The Directorate-General "Enterprise and Industry" of the European Commission
The CGPME (General Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises)
The MEDEF (Movement of French Enterprises) (in French)

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Last Updates: February 2015