France is one of the largest economies in the world : it is the fifth economic potency of the world, behind the United States, Japan, China and Germany. However, due to differing analyses and forms of measurement used, there has been some disagreement as to just how big it actually is, particularly when comparisons to the economies of other countries are made. International Monetary Fund data rank the French economy eighth largest by purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2007 at US$2,046,899 million. The World Bank, in 2008, estimated France's GDP in 2006 to be US$1,959,745 million, or seventh largest in the world by PPP. Rankings published by the CIA World Factbook in 2008 determine France's GDP, at $2.067 trillion, to be the eighth largest, again by measurement of PPP.
France, as with many modern industrialised nations, has a large and diverse industrial base. Leading industrial sectors in France are telecommunications (including communication satellites), aerospace and defense, ship building (naval and specialist ships), pharmaceuticals, construction and civil engineering, chemicals, and automobile production (3.5m units in 2005).
Research and development spending is also high in France at 2.3% of GDP, the third highest in the OECD
France is the third largest weapons supplier in the world. The French arms industry's main customer, for whom they mainly build warships, guns, nuclear weapons and equipment, is the French Government. Furthermore, record high defense expenditure (currently at €35 billion), which was considerably increased under the government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, have contributed to the success of the French arms industries. In addition, external demand plays a big part in the growth of this sector: for example, France exports great quantities of weaponry to the United Arab Emirates, Greece, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, Singapore and many others.
France is the third-largest trading nation in western Europe (after Germany and the United Kingdom). Its foreign trade balance for goods had been in surplus from 1992 until 2001, reaching $25.4 billion (25.4 G$) in 1998; however, the French balance of trade was hit by the economic downturn, and went into the red in 2000, reaching US$15bn in deficit in 2003. Total trade for 1998 amounted to $730 billion, or 50% of GDP--imports plus exports of goods and services. Trade with European Union countries accounts for 60% of French trade.
In 1998, U.S.-France trade totalled about $47 billion--goods only. According to French trade data, U.S. exports accounted for 8.7%--about $25 billion--of France's total imports. U.S. industrial chemicals, aircraft and engines, electronic components, telecommunications, computer software, computers and peripherals, analytical and scientific instrumentation, medical instruments and supplies, broadcasting equipment, and programming and franchising are particularly attractive to French importers.
Principal French exports to the United States are aircraft and engines, beverages, electrical equipment, chemicals, cosmetics, luxury products and perfume. France is the ninth-largest trading partner of the U.S.
The economic disparity between regions aren't as high as in Spain, Italy or Germany. If we take the Ile-de-France region out of the equation, then the four poorest regions—Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Picardie, Languedoc-Roussillon and Corse—lag by a reasonable margin per capita.
The most powerful regions are Ile-de-France (4th agglomerations for her economy in the world), Rhônes-Alpes (industries, services, high-tecnologies), Provence-Alpes-Côtes d'Azur (services, industries, tourisms and wines), Nord-Pas-de-Calais (industries) and Pays de la Loire .
Regions like Alsace, which has a rich past in industry (machine tool), are relatively wealthy without ranking very high in absolute term.
The rurals area are mainly in Auvergne, Limousin, and Centre, and wines productions account for a significant amount of the economy in Aquitaine (Bordeaux region), and champagne for Champagne-Ardennes