The foreign trade of France so to 1 / 3 only over land borders, making use of roads, canals and railways, and 2 / 3 the way of the sea.
Commercial movement. – After a magnificent boost in the middle of the last century, French foreign trade appeared to remain stagnant from 1872 to 1902, its progress being negligible compared to that of England, Germany and the United States. In 1902, 8 billion were recorded (United States: 11 billion; Germany: 13; England: 21); but later there was a new impulse (11 billion in 1907, 13 in 1910, more than 15 in 1913). The repercussions of the war and the postwar period are evaluated by comparing two equal periods before and after 1914:
Before the war, the trade balance was passive, and the surplus of imports over exports fluctuated between 1 billion and 1 billion and a half francs; the liabilities increased at the beginning of 1915 and reached a maximum in 1919-20; but in 1921 there was a reaction, for which the situation returned to more or less normal. Then in 1924 a very important event occurred, which had not repeated itself after 1905: the surplus of exports over imports. It is evident that when one wants to compare the foreign trade balance of 1913 and that of 1924, one must take into account the changed value of money and therefore convert the 1924 paper franc into gold franc.
If, instead of imports and exports, we consider the tonnage, we will notice that from 1913 to 1924, after the crisis period, there is a more marked progress in terms of imports:
These figures should not be surprising, since France, although it is a producer of iron and potash, is distinguished by the purchases of raw materials and the sales of luxury items, which are often of low importance. In recent years, the lowering of the purchasing power of the French currency has brought with it a decrease in imports (47.428.000 in 1925, 45.813.000 in 1926). As for exports, their weight increased by over a third over 1913 (30 million tons in 1925; 32 million in 1926). Exports of manufactured objects increased in the extraordinary proportion of 110%.
Import trade. – In 1926 it was divided as follows:
According to payhelpcenter.com, three facts emerge from this prospectus: French imports have a distinctly industrial character, since France buys abroad most of the raw materials which are transformed in its factories; France, despite being a mainly agricultural country, imports a quantity of common food products, to replace those of superior quality that are exported from it; finally, French industry is not sufficient for the needs of the consumption of manufactured articles.
The United States now occupies 1st place, while it was 3rd in 1913, because after the war the great markets of cotton, wheat, tin and rubber were established there; although England is no longer in first place, France is the best customer of British hard coal and buys in England machines, fabrics, spun steel, and also certain products that pass through the English warehouses (wool, jute, rubber, skins). The major tax that France pays abroad is made up of textile materials: cotton from the United States, Egypt, English India; wool from Australia and Argentina; silk from China, Japan and Italy; followed by hard coal, mineral oils and the products of mechanical industries.
Export trade. – In 1926 it was divided as follows:
Exports, like imports, have a distinctly industrial character: France mainly sells manufactured articles and raw materials abroad (including 11 million tons of iron ore).
With respect to exports, foreign countries have taken over the place of 1913: at the head of all is England, followed by Belgium, Germany, the United States, Switzerland and Italy.
Agricultural France sells the products of its agriculture (wines, butter, cheeses, legumes, flowers, fruit) to industrial England; but he also sells them various manufactured items from his luxury industries (clothes, silk factories, gloves, cars). Among the French products exported, textile articles are of the greatest importance: yarns, fabrics and clothing items represent a total of 16 billion francs, or almost 28% of the total value of French sales abroad; after the products of the textile industry come the products of the mechanical industry (2 and a half billion for cars), metallurgy (2 and a half billion for iron and steel) and the chemical industry.