France at a glance

1- A strong, diversified and open economy in the heart of Europe

France is the second largest economy in Europe and the fifth largest in the world, with an estimated GDP of US$ 2.74 trillion in 2013 (IMF). With 65 million residents, France ranks second in Europe for consumer market, and has direct free access to the European market, the world’s most important consumer market (500 million consumers with high purchasing power).

The French economy is strong and diversified, with world-class industrial sectors such as Europe’s largest aerospace and nuclear industries, Europe’s second largest agri-food and chemical industries and Europe’s third largest ICT and pharmaceutical sectors. Of the world’s top 500 companies, 32 are French (Germany has 32 and the United Kingdom 26): Total, GDF Suez, EDF, Axa, Société générale, Carrefour, L’Oréal, Sanofi Aventis… This puts France joint fourth in the world alongside Germany (Fortune Global 500, 2012).


Baie de Douarnenez, Finistère, Bretagne © Médiathèque EDF_Philippe DUREUIL

France is one of the most open economy in the world. With 20,000 foreign companies employing more than 2 million employees, it is the 4th largest stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world (UNCTAD, 2014). On average, 13 foreign companies decide to invest in France every week. France is the leading destination in Europe for investment in industry (E&Y, 2014). Paris is the most popular location for Fortune Global 500 company headquarters in 2012. European headquarters of Disney, IBM, Google, Coca Cola, Delphi, Fedex, Microsoft are in Paris.

2- A leader in innovation and research

12 French companies or institutions are among the 100 most innovative organizations in the world (Thomson Reuters, 2013). This ranks France #3 in the world and #1 in Europe for three consecutive years.

France has built a nurturing cluster ecosystem bringing together startups, labs, universities and big companies. The Paris-Saclay cluster is already ranked #8 in the world by MIT Technology Review. There are now more than 78,000 tech start-ups in France, among which: Dailymotion (online videos, 120 million visitors per month), Meetic (online dating, 840,000 subscribers), Criteo (targeted advertising, listed on NASDAQ), Deezer (music streaming, 16 million active users per month), Cdiscount (e-commerce leader in France, 1.6 bn turnover)…


Grand Arénas, Côte d’Azur © Mateo Arquitectura

Finally, France is a land of talent and innovation. French engineers are sought after for being passionate and creative, and that is why, for example, the Chinese telecom giant Huawei has announced this year its intention to invest €1.5 bn in France over the next three years. Its researchers are distinguished at the international level, with 13 Fields medals in mathematics (#2 in the world after the US) and 61 Nobel Prizes (#4 in the world), including two this year (Economics and Literature).

3- World-renowned quality of life

France is the first tourist destination in the world, welcoming 85 million tourists in 2013.

At the heart of the European continent, France enjoys an exceptional regional diversity. Its territory extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Alps to the Atlantic Coast, making it by far the largest country by surface area in the European Union, while its overseas territories give it a presence on all the world’s oceans.

Thanks to its rich history and culture, France is one of the countries with the most sites (39) recognized by the prestigious UNESCO’s World Heritage List. In particular, “the gastronomic meal of the French” was added in November 2010 on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, singling out France’s art de vivre.


Quai d’Orsay, Paris © Ministère des Affaires étrangères et du Développement international/Lionel Bouchy

publié le 03/01/2020

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