France is a key Euro market for Northern Ireland

France is the world’s fifth largest economy and the second largest consumer market in Europe with a population of 65 million. It is also a geographical hub for business within the European Union (EU), and in Africa and the Middle East.

France is a highly diversified economy, where services generate 80% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The economy has world class industrial sectors and is home to Europe’s:

  • largest aerospace and nuclear industries
  • second largest Agri-food and chemical industries
  • third largest Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and pharmaceutical sectors
  • a significant developer of cars and trucks

Paris is also the Eurozone’s leading financial centre and the second most popular location in Europe for foreign financial firms with a total of 500 banks and financial institutions.

France and Northern Ireland

France is one of Northern Ireland’s top 10 markets for a wide range of products and services. Several French companies have invested in Northern Ireland including Montupet in Dunmurry, a major producer of automotive components including aluminum cylinder heads and alloy wheels, Michelin in Ballymena, the leader in the development and manufacturer of bus and truck tyres, Yardmaster in Draperstown, a producer of garden sheds, and Teleperformance which has contact centres in Bangor and Newry.

In 2013, Northern Ireland companies exported products worth £309 million to France – up 15.7% on the previous year. Among the leading exporters is Caterpillar, Inc in Larne for portable and emergency generators. Randox Laboratories at Crumlin also has significant sales in France.

France is a leading European market for food and drink industry companies especially red meat providers such as Dunbia, C&J Meats, Linden Foods, as well as firms in other industry leaders such as Old Bushmills Distillery in Co Antrim and Baileys Original Irish Cream Liqueur, most of which is produced at Mallusk.

Smaller food companies with business in France include Hannan Meats, Moira, which supplies beef to high-end restaurants, Fivemiletown Cheese, which has supplied speciality cheese to major retailers, and Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil, Limavady, a supplier to La Grande Épicerie in Paris.

In addition, Northern Ireland seafood companies also provide a range of fish and seafood to France. They include Rooney Fish in Kilkeel, a provider of cooked langoustines and lobster to major retailers, and Henning Seafood, also Kilkeel, which sells fresh oysters which are used in high-end restaurants in Paris.

Doing Business in France

Benefits of Doing Business in France

There are many benefits for Northern Ireland businesses in doing business in France:

  • proximity to the UK
  • easy transport links from the UK with Eurostar and low cost flights to Paris and many provincial cities
  • large, open and diversified market
  • similar demographics and status to the UK
  • only 1 hour time difference

Strengths of the French market include:

  • its strategic location between northern and southern Europe
  • excellent internal transport network with motorways and high speed trains
  • strong political, commercial and transport links with Germany and other EU and Mediterranean countries
  • home to headquarters of many major corporations including Airbus, EADS, Safran, Thales, Dassault, Carrefour, Danone, Total, Areva, EDF, Orange, Renault, Peugeot and Alstom
  • home to large number of international trade fairs including SIAL, Maison et Objet, Paris Motor Show and Paris Air Show
  • most popular tourist destination in the world with about 80 million visitors in 2012 generating around € 77 billion


In many ways France is a similar market to the UK. Companies can face language and cultural challenges which can be overcome through persistence, excellent communication and regular meetings.

Payment conditions have to 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.

Growth Potential

Economic Growth

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicts that the French economy will grow steadily to reach 1.5% growth in 2015.

Economists predict that the sectors likely to perform well include:

  • aerospace
  • automotive
  • naval construction and repair
  • mechanical engineering
  • Information Technology (IT)
  • pharmaceuticals

Trade between UK and France

UK exports of goods and services to France totaled £21.5 billion in 2013. The UK was France’s seventh largest supplier.

The leading British exports were:

  • petroleum products (9%)
  • road vehicles (7.1%)
  • aircraft parts (6.7%)
  • crude oil and bitumen (3.9%)
  • pharmaceuticals (3.3%)

Other high-performing sectors include:

  • spirits
  • automotive components
  • tyres
  • nuclear fuels
  • jewellery

It is clear there are many opportunities, strengths and potential for Northern Ireland businesses in pursuing business in France.

For further information and to book an appointment with the Business Information Centre, call us on 0800 181 4422 or fill in the online enquiry form.