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What were the major imports and exports of Germany and France from 1850-1915?

What were the major imports and exports of Germany and France from 1850-1915?


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Background: I've been doing some digging on nineteenth century trade, and so far have found this list of Britain's major imports to be an extremely helpful big picture guide. Sadly, I've yet to google up anything both as straightforward and comprehensive on France and Germany in the same century, which are my other two areas of interest.

Question: Could somebody please give me a run-down of the major French and (post-unification) German imports and exports for the latter half of the 19th century? Relating that list to their colonies and biggest trading partners would also be much appreciated, but isn't necessary for an answer.


There were two key themes of French-German trade in the 19th century. One was the iron and steel trade that tended eastward, toward Germany, and the other was the textile/apparel trade that trended west toward France. The Alsace-Lorraine was important to both sets of trade.

Regarding the iron and steel trade, France was long on iron and short of coal. Germany had little iron and a lot of coal. Germany started in a better position because it takes several tons of coal (fuel) to "smelt" one ton of iron. So it made more sense for Germany to import iron from France (rather than France to import coal from Germany). Germany was in an even better position when she captured France's Lorraine in 1871, a major source of iron, at which time this source became "domestic" rather than "imported." The resulting strength of the steel industry in Germany supported growth in related industries such as banking, chemicals, electrical goods, and railroads.

The industrial development of France moved in the other direction; toward luxury consumer goods such as wines, cheeses, and apparel. Key to the latter was the textile industry of Alsace, which was French until 1871, and German thereafter (until 1918), from where France imported many of her textiles.

One can get an idea of the different emphases of the French and Germany economies by looking at the export companies that were founded around the mid-19th century. French companies founded at this time include luxury goods manufacturers, Hermes and Louis Vuitton. German companies founded around that time included Siemens, the "GE" of Germany, and BASF and Bayer, the chemical companies.

The German industrialization model was far closer to Britain's, with Germany (and America) overtaking, then surpassing Britain in steel, chemicals, and electrical goods by 1915. Germany was comparable to Britain in railroads, and somewhat weaker in finance. But it competed with Britain and America in providing capital goods to modernizing European countries in the eastern and southern parts of the continent.

France had a narrow set of goods, but its predominance in luxury goods was more global (even perhaps, to this day). That's because it had fewer directly competitors. In Renaissance times, "Italy" (or Italian states) competed with France in the luxury goods area (and Italy does so today), but around 1900, France had left Italy far behind, at least until Italy caught up industrially in the late 20th century.

Unlike the UK, Germany's colonial empire hardly impacted its trade position, and France's barely more. Germany's main colonies such as German East Africa (modern Tanzania), German West Africa (Cameroons), and German Southwest Africa (Namibia), were established in the late 19th century (1880s), and were not particularly rich. France's colonial claim to fame was Algeria, colonized around 1830 (other possessions in Africa and Indochina came much later). Neither of them had any colonies like Britain's India, which exported opium to China and cotton to Britain, South Africa, with its wealth of gold and diamonds, or Australia, one of the world's richest countries per capita, despite an agriculture based economy. All of these British colonies had been established earlier than the late 19th century.


The US National Bureau of Economic Research has some published several datasets with details of foreign trade for France and Germany (also for the UK and US) that cover part of the period you're interested in.

For France, digitised versions of the Annuaire statistique are available online, as are a series of datasets from La Statistique Générale de la France. Both of these contain information on French foreign trade.

For Germany, there is Historische Datenbank (Lehrstuhl für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Universität Münster) which provides access to a wide selection of historical statistics on the economic history of Germany (including foreign trade) since 1850. To access these datasets, you need to download the excel file on the download link (which contains the index) and then click on the link for a particular dataset in the Excel worksheet to get the statistics.

There is also a new dataset that has been collated by the European Historical Economics Society. The information in the Appendix might give the "big picture" overview of the imports and exports that you are looking for.


Germany’s Top 10 Imports

by Flagpictures.org Germany imported US$1.172 trillion worth of goods from around the globe in 2020, up by 10.9% since 2016 but down by -5.2% from 2019 to 2020.

Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, Germany uses the euro which appreciated by 2% against the US dollar since 2016 and rose by 3.1% from 2019 to 2020. The stronger EU currency in 2020 made Germany’s imports paid for in weaker US dollars in 2020 relatively less expensive than in 2019 when converted starting from euros.

German imports represent 6.1% of total global imports which totaled an estimated $19.085 trillion one year earlier in 2019.

Applying a continental lens, 62.8% of Germany’s total imports by value in 2020 were purchased from fellow European countries. Asian trade partners satisfied 23.3% of import purchases by Germany while 7.9% worth of goods originated from North America. Smaller percentages came from customers in Africa (1.8%), Latin America (1.2%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Oceania (0.4%) led by Australia.

Given Germany’s population of 83.2 million people, its total $1.172 trillion in 2020 imports translates to roughly $14,100 in yearly product demand from every person in the European republic.


The collapse of the Roman Empire unlinked the French economy from Europe. Town and city life and trade declined and society became based on the self-sufficient manor. What limited international trade existed in the Merovingian age — primarily in luxury goods such as silk, papyrus, and silver — was carried out by foreign merchants such as the Radhanites.

Agricultural output began to increase in the Carolingian age as a result of the arrival of new crops, improvements in agricultural production, and good weather conditions. However, this did not lead to the revival of urban life in fact, urban activity further declined in the Carolingian era as a result of civil war, Arab raids, and Viking invasions. The Pirenne hypotheses posits that at this disruption brought an end to long-distance trade, without which civilization retreated to purely agricultural settlements, and isolated military, church, and royal centers. When trade revived these centers became the nucleus of new towns and cities around which suburbs of merchants and artisans grew.

The High Middle Ages saw a continuation of the agricultural boom of the Carolingian age. In addition, urban life grew during this period towns such as Paris expanded dramatically.

The 13 decades from 1335 to 1450 spawned a series of economic catastrophes, with bad harvests, famines, plagues, and wars that overwhelmed four generations of Frenchmen. The population had expanded, making the food supply more precarious. The bubonic plague ("Black Death") hit Western Europe in 1347, killing a third of the population, and it was echoed by several smaller plagues at 15-year intervals. The French and English armies during the Hundred Years War marched back and forth across the land they ransacked and burned towns, drained the food supply, disrupted agriculture and trade, and left disease and famine in their wake. Royal authority weakened, as local nobles became strongmen fighting their neighbors for control of the local region. France's population plunged from 17 million, down to 12 million in 130 years. Finally, starting in the 1450s, a long cycle of recuperation began. [1]

(Figures cited in the following section are given in livre tournois, the standard "money of account" used in the period. Comparisons with modern figures are extremely difficult food items were comparatively cheap, but luxury goods and fabrics were very expensive. In the 15th century, an artisan could earn perhaps 30 livres a year a great noble could have land revenues from 6,000 to 30,000 livres or more. [2] A late seventeenth-century unskilled worker in Paris earned around 250 livres a year, [3] while a revenue of 4000 livres a year maintained a relatively successful writer in modest comfort. [4] At the end of the 18th century, a well-off family could earn 100,000 livres by the end of the year, although the most prestigious families could gain twice or three times that much, while, for provincial nobility, yearly earnings of 10,000 livres permitted a minimum of provincial luxury).

Renaissance Edit

The economy of Renaissance France was, for the first half-century, marked by dynamic demographic growth and by developments in agriculture and industry. Until 1795, France was the most populated country in Europe and the third most populous country in the world, behind only China and India. With an estimated population of 17 million in 1400, 20 million in the 17th century, and 28 million in 1789, its population exceeded even Russia and was twice the size of Britain and Dutch Republic. In France, the Renaissance was marked by a massive increase in urban populations, although on the whole, France remained a profoundly rural country, with less than 10% of the population located in urban areas. Paris was one of the most populated cities in Europe, with an estimated population of 650,000 by the end of the 18th century.

Agricultural production of a variety of food items expanded: olive oil, wine, cider, woad (Fr. "pastel", a source of blue dye), and saffron. The South grew artichokes, melons, romaine lettuce, eggplant, salsifys, celery, fennel, parsley, and alfalfa. After 1500 New World crops appeared such as beans, corn (maize), squash, tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers. Production techniques remained attached to medieval traditions and produced low yields. With the rapidly expanding population, additional land suitable for farming became scarce. The situation was made worse by repeated disastrous harvests in the 1550s.

Industrial developments greatly affected printing (introduced in 1470 in Paris, 1473 in Lyon) and metallurgy. The introduction of the high-temperature forge in northeast France and an increase in mineral mining were important developments, although it was still necessary for France to import many metals, including copper, bronze, tin, and lead. Mines and glasswork benefited greatly from royal tax exemptions for a period of about twenty years. Silk production (introduced in Tours in 1470 and in Lyon in 1536) enabled the French to join a thriving market, but French products remained of lesser quality than Italian silks. Wool production was widespread, as was the production of linen and of hemp (both major export products).

After Paris, Rouen was the second largest city in France (70,000 inhabitants in 1550), in large part because of its port. Marseille (French since 1481) was France's second major port: it benefited greatly from France's trading agreements signed in 1536 with Suleiman the Magnificent. To increase maritime activity, Francis I founded the port city of Le Havre in 1517. Other significant ports included Toulon, Saint Malo and La Rochelle.

Lyon was the center of France's banking and international trade markets. Market fairs occurred four times a year and facilitated the exportation of French goods, such as cloth and fabrics, and importation of Italian, German, Dutch, English goods. It also allowed the importation of exotic goods such as silks, alum, glass, wools, spices, dyes. Lyon also contained houses of most of Europe's banking families, including Fugger and Medici. Regional markets and trade routes linked Lyon, Paris, and Rouen to the rest of the country. Under Francis I and Henry II, the relationships between French imports and the exports to England and to Spain were in France's favor. Trade was roughly balanced with the Netherlands, but France continually ran a large trade deficit with Italy due to the latter's silks and exotic goods. In subsequent decades, English, Dutch and Flemish maritime activity would create competition with French trade, which would eventually displace the major markets to the northwest, leading to the decline of Lyon.

Although France, being initially more interested in the Italian wars, arrived late to the exploration and colonization of the Americas, private initiative and piracy brought Bretons, Normans and Basques early to American waters. Starting in 1524, Francis I began to sponsor exploration of the New World. Significant explorers sailing under the French flag included Giovanni da Verrazzano and Jacques Cartier. Later, Henry II sponsored the explorations of Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon who established a largely Calvinist colony in Rio de Janeiro, 1555-1560. Later, René Goulaine de Laudonnière and Jean Ribault established a Protestant colony in Florida (1562–1565). (see French colonization of the Americas).

By the middle of the 16th century, France's demographic growth, its increased demand for consumer goods, and its rapid influx of gold and silver from Africa and the Americas led to inflation (grain became five times as expensive from 1520 to 1600), and wage stagnation. Although many land-owning peasants and enterprising merchants had been able to grow rich during the boom, the standard of living fell greatly for rural peasants, who were forced to deal with bad harvests at the same time. This led to reduced purchasing power and a decline in manufacturing. The monetary crisis led France to abandon (in 1577) the livre as its money of account, in favor of the écu in circulation, and banning most foreign currencies.

Meanwhile, France's military ventures in Italy and (later) disastrous civil wars demanded huge sums of cash, which were raised with through the taille and other taxes. The taille, which was levied mainly on the peasantry, increased from 2.5 million livres in 1515 to 6 million after 1551, and by 1589 the taille had reached a record 21 million livres. Financial crises hit the royal household repeatedly, and so in 1523, Francis I established a government bond system in Paris, the "rentes sure l'Hôtel de Ville".

The French Wars of Religion were concurrent with crop failures and epidemics. The belligerents also practiced massive "scorched earth" strategies to rob their enemies of foodstuffs. Brigands and leagues of self-defense flourished transport of goods ceased villagers fled to the woods and abandoned their lands towns were set on fire. The south was particularly affected: Auvergne, Lyon, Burgundy, Languedoc—agricultural production in those areas fell roughly 40%. The great banking houses left Lyon: from 75 Italian houses in 1568, there remained only 21 in 1597. [5]

Rural society Edit

In the 17th century rich peasants who had ties to the market economy provided much of the capital investment necessary for agricultural growth, and frequently moved from village to village (or town). Geographic mobility, directly tied to the market and the need for investment capital, was the main path to social mobility. The "stable" core of French society, town guildspeople and village laborers, included cases of staggering social and geographic continuity, but even this core required regular renewal. Accepting the existence of these two societies, the constant tension between them, and extensive geographic and social mobility tied to a market economy holds the key to a clearer understanding of the evolution of the social structure, economy, and even political system of early modern France. Collins (1991) argues that the Annales School paradigm underestimated the role of the market economy failed to explain the nature of capital investment in the rural economy, and grossly exaggerated social stability. [6]

Seventeenth century Edit

After 1597, the French economic situation improved and agricultural production was aided by milder weather. Henry IV, with his minister Maximilien de Béthune, Duc de Sully, adopted monetary reforms. These included better coinage, a return to the livre tournois as account money, reduction of the debt, which was 200 million livres in 1596, and a reduction of the tax burden on peasants. Henry IV attacked abuses, embarked on a comprehensive administrative reform, increased charges for official offices, the "paulette", repurchased alienated royal lands, improved roads and the funded the construction of canals, and planted the seed of a state-supervised mercantile philosophy. Under Henry IV, agricultural reforms, largely started by Olivier de Serres were instituted. These agricultural and economic reforms, and mercantilism would also be the policies of Louis XIII's minister Cardinal Richelieu. In an effort to counteract foreign imports and exploration, Richelieu sought alliances with Morocco and Persia, and encouraged exploration of New France, the Antilles, Sénégal, Gambia and Madagascar, though only the first two were immediate successes. These reforms would establish the groundwork for the Louis XIV's policies.

Louis XIV's glory was irrevocably linked to two great projects, military conquest and the building of Versailles—both of which required enormous sums of money. To finance these projects, Louis created several additional tax systems, including the "capitation" (begun in 1695) which taxed every person including nobles and the clergy, though exemption could be bought for a large one-time sum, and the "dixième" (1710–1717, restarted in 1733), which was a true tax on income and on property value and was meant to support the military. The Taille remained the chief direct tax, but its weight fell differently depending on the fiscal status (généralité) of the province. The Pays d'états were at a great advantage because they paid the Taille Réelle, which was based on a fixed percentage of a property's value. The Pays d'élection enjoyed no such privileges, their taille rate was assessed behind closed doors by the Council of State, which raised the taille arbitrarily to try and close the widening government deficit. [7] The differences in terms of material prosperity between the two types of province was noticeable. To exasperate the burden of the taille, it was levied quarterly rather than annually, and was a heavy burden on rural peasants, tending to fall heaviest on the poorest généralités and parishes. This acted as a disincentive on farmers to increase their productivity, since a larger yield was inevitably offset by a higher taille assessment. [8]

Louis XIV's minister of finances, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, started a mercantile system which used protectionism and state-sponsored manufacturing to promote the production of luxury goods over the rest of the economy. The state established new industries (the royal tapestry works at Beauvais, French quarries for marble), took over established industries (the Gobelins tapestry works), protected inventors, invited workmen from foreign countries (Venetian glass and Flemish cloth manufacturing), and prohibited French workmen from emigrating. To maintain the character of French goods in foreign markets, Colbert had the quality and measure of each article fixed by law, and severely punished breaches of the regulations. This massive investment in (and preoccupation with) luxury goods and court life (fashion, decoration, cuisine, urban improvements, etc.), and the mediatization (through such gazettes as the Mercure galant) of these products, elevated France to a role of arbiter of European taste. [9]

Unable to abolish the duties on the passage of goods from province to province, Colbert did what he could to induce the provinces to equalize them. His régime improved roads and canals. To encourage companies like the important French East India Company (founded in 1664), Colbert granted special privileges to trade with the Levant, Senegal, Guinea and other places, for the importing of coffee, cotton, dyewoods, fur, pepper, and sugar, but none of these ventures proved successful. Colbert achieved a lasting legacy in his establishment of the French royal navy he reconstructed the works and arsenal of Toulon, founded the port and arsenal of Rochefort, and the naval schools of Rochefort, Dieppe and Saint-Malo. He fortified, with some assistance from Vauban, many ports including those of Calais, Dunkirk, Brest and Le Havre.

Colbert's economic policies were a key element in Louis XIV's creation of a centralized and fortified state and in the promotion of government glory, including the construction they had many economic failures: they were overly restrictive on workers, they discouraged inventiveness, and had to be supported by unreasonably high tariffs.

The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 created additional economic problems: of the more than 200,000 Huguenot refugees who fled France for Prussia, Switzerland, England, Ireland, United Provinces, Denmark, South Africa and eventually America, many were highly educated skilled artisans and business-owners who took their skills, businesses, and occasionally even their Catholic workers, with them. Both the expansion of French as a European lingua franca in the 18th century, and the modernization of the Prussian army have been credited to the Huguenots.

The wars and the weather at the end of the century brought the economy to the brink. Conditions in rural areas were grim from the 1680s to 1720s. To increase tax revenues, the taille was augmented, as too were the prices of official posts in the administration and judicial system. With the borders guarded due to war, international trade was severely hindered. The economic plight of the vast majority of the French population — predominantly simple farmers — was extremely precarious, and the Little Ice Age resulted in further crop failures. Bad harvests caused starvation—killing a tenth of the people in 1693-94. [10] Unwilling to sell or transport their much-needed grain to the army, many peasants rebelled or attacked grain convoys, but they were repressed by the state. Meanwhile, wealthy families with stocks of grains survived relatively unscathed in 1689 and again in 1709, in a gesture of solidarity with his suffering people, Louis XIV had his royal dinnerware and other objects of gold and silver melted down.

Eighteenth century Edit

France was large and rich and experienced a slow economic and demographic recovery in the first decades following the death of Louis XIV in 1715. [11] Birth rates were high and the infant mortality rate was in steady decline. The overall mortality rate in France fell from an average of 400 deaths per 10,000 people in 1750, to 328 in 1790, and 298 per 10,000 in 1800. [12]

Monetary confidence was briefly eroded by the disastrous paper money "System" introduced by John Law from 1716 to 1720. Law, as Controller General of Finances, established France's first central bank, the Banque Royale, initially founded as a private entity by Law in 1716 and nationalized in 1718. [13] [14] The bank was entrusted with paying down the enormous debt accumulated through Louis XIV's wars and stimulating the moribund French economy. Initially a great success, the bank's pursuit of French monopolies led it to land speculation in Louisiana through the Mississippi Company, forming an economic bubble in the process that eventually burst in 1720. [15] The collapse of the Banque Royale in the crisis and the paper currency which it issued left a deep suspicion of the idea of a central bank it was not until 80 years later that Napoleon established the Bank of France. [16] In 1726, under Louis XV's minister Cardinal Fleury, a system of monetary stability was put in place, leading to a strict conversion rate between gold and silver, and set values for the coins in circulation in France. [17] The amount of gold in circulation in the kingdom rose from 731 million livres in 1715 to 2 billion in 1788 as economic activity accelerated. [12]

The international commercial centers of the country were based in Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, and Bordeaux. Nantes and Bordeaux saw phenomenal growth due to an increase of trade with Spain and Portugal. Trade between France and her Caribbean colonies (Saint-Domingue, Guadeloupe, and Martinique) grew ten-fold between 1715 and 1789, with Saint Domingue the single richest territory in the world by 1789. [12] [18] Much of the lucrative imports from the Caribbean were re-exported to other European countries. By the late 1780s, 87% of the sugar, 95% of the coffee, and 76% of the indigo imported to Bordeaux from the Caribbean was being re-exported. [19] Cádiz was the commercial hub for export of French printed fabrics to India, the Americas and the Antilles (coffee, sugar, tobacco, American cotton), and Africa (the slave trade), centered in Nantes. [20] The value of this export activity amounted to nearly 25% of the French national income by 1789. [12]

Industry continued to expand, averaging 2% growth per year from the 1740s onwards and accelerating in the last decades before the Revolution. [21] The most dynamic industries of the period were mines, metallurgy, and textiles (in particularly printed fabrics, such as those made by Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf). The advancements in these areas were often due to British inventors. For example, it was John Kay's invention of the flying shuttle that revolutionized the textile industry, and it was James Watt's steam engine that changed the industry as the French had known it. Capital remained difficult to raise for commercial ventures, however, and the state remained highly mercantilistic, protectionist, and interventionist in the domestic economy, often setting requirements for production quality and industrial standards, and limiting industries to certain cities.

In 1749, a new tax, modeled on the "dixième" and called the "vingtième" (or "one-twentieth"), was enacted to reduce the royal deficit. This tax continued until the end of the ancien régime. It was based solely on revenues, requiring 5% of net earnings from land, property, commerce, industry and from official offices, and was meant to touch all citizens regardless of status. However, the clergy, the regions with "pays d'état" and the parlements protested the clergy won exemption, the "pays d'état" won reduced rates, and the parlements halted new income statements, effectively making the "vingtième" a far less efficient tax than it was designed to be. The financial needs of the Seven Years' War led to a second (1756–1780), and then a third (1760–1763), "vingtième" being created. In 1754, the "vingtième" produced 11.7 million livres. [22]

Improvements in communication, like an expanding network of roads and canals, and the diligence stagecoach services which by the 1780s had sharply reduced travel times between Paris and the provincial cities, went a long way towards expanding trade within France. However, most French markets were overwhelmingly local in character (by 1789 only 30% of agricultural produce was being sold in a place other than where it was produced). Price discrepancies between regions and heavy internal customs barriers, which made for exorbitant transportation costs, meant that a unified national market like that of Britain was still far off. [23] On the eve of the Revolution, a shipment of goods travelling from Lorraine to the Mediterranean coast would have been stopped 21 times and incurred 34 different duties. [24]

Agriculture Edit

Starting in the late 1730s and early 1740s, and continuing for the next 30 years, France's population and economy underwent expansion. Rising prices, particularly for agricultural products, were extremely profitable for large landholders. Artisans and tenant farmers also saw wage increases but on the whole, they benefited less from the growing economy. The ownership share of the peasantry remained largely the same as it had in the previous century, with around 1/3 of arable land in the hands of peasant smallholders in 1789. [12] A newer trend was the amount of land which came into the hands of bourgeois owners during the 18th century: fully 1/3 of the arable land in France by 1789. [12] The stability of land ownership made it a very attractive investment for the bourgeois, as did the social prestige which it brought. [25]

Pivotal developments in agriculture such as modern techniques of crop rotation and the use of fertilizers, which were modeled on successes in Britain and Italy, began to be introduced in parts of France. It would, however, take generations for these reforms to spread throughout all of France. In northern France the three-field system of crop rotation still prevailed, and in the south the two-field system. [12] Under such methods, farmers left either one third or half of their arable land vacant as fallow every year to restore fertility in cycles. This was both a considerable waste of land at any one time which might otherwise have been cultivated, and an inferior way of restoring fertility compared to planting restorative fodder crops. [26]

Farming of recent New World crops, including maize (corn) and potatoes, continued to expand and provided an important supplement to the diet. However, the spread of these crops was geographically limited (potatoes to Alsace and Lorraine, and maize in the more temperate south of France), with the bulk of the population over-reliant on wheat for subsistence. [27] From the late 1760's onwards harsher weather caused consistently poor wheat harvests (there were only three between 1770 and 1789 which were deemed sufficient). [28]

The hardship bad harvests caused mainly affected the small proprietors and peasants who constituted the bulk of French farmers large land owners continued to prosper from rising land prices and strong demand. The more serious recurrent threat was that of bread shortages and steep price rises, which could cause mass disruption and rioting. The average wage earner in France, during periods of abundance, might spend as much as 70% of his income on bread alone. During shortages, when prices could rise by as much as 100%, the threat of destitution increased dramatically for French families. [29] The French government experimented unsuccessfully with regulating the grain market, lifting price controls in the late 1760s, re-imposing them in the early 1770s, then lifting them again in 1775. Abandoning price controls in 1775, after a bad harvest the previous year, caused grain prices to skyrocket by 50% in Paris the rioting which erupted as a result (known as the Flour War), engulfed much of northeastern France and had to be put down with force. [30]

Slave trade Edit

The slaving interest was based in Nantes, La Rochelle, Bordeaux, and Le Havre during the years 1763 to 1792. The 'négriers' were merchants who specialized in funding and directing cargoes of black captives to the Caribbean colonies, which had high death rates and needed a continuous fresh supply. The négriers intermarried with each other's families most were Protestants. Their derogatory and patronizing approach toward blacks immunized them from moral criticism. They strongly opposed to the application of the Declaration of Rights of Man to blacks. While they ridiculed the slaves as dirty and savage, they often took a black mistress. The French government paid a bounty on each captive sold to the colonies, which made the business profitable and patriotic. They vigorously defended their business against the abolition movement of 1789. [31]

1770-1789 Edit

The agricultural and climatic problems of the 1770s and 1780s led to an important increase in poverty: in some cities in the north, historians have estimated the poor as reaching upwards of 20% of the urban population. Displacement and criminality, mainly theft, also increased, and the growth of groups of mendicants and bandits became a problem. Overall about one third of the French population lived in poverty, approximately 8 million people. This could rise by several million during bad harvests and the resulting economic crises. [32] Although nobles, bourgeoisie, and wealthy landholders saw their revenues affected by the depression, the hardest-hit in this period were the working class and the peasants. While their tax burden to the state had generally decreased in this period, feudal and seigneurial dues had increased. [33]

In these last decades of the century, French industries continued to develop. Mechanization was introduced, factories were created, and monopolies became more common. However, this growth was complicated by competition from England in the textiles and cotton industries. The competitive disadvantage of French manufactures was sorely demonstrated after the 1786 Anglo-French commercial treaty opened the French market to British goods beginning in mid-1787. [34] The cheaper and superior quality British products undercut domestic manufactures, and contributed to the severe industrial depression underway in France by 1788. [35] The depression was worsened by a catastrophic harvest failure during the summer of 1788, which reverberated across the economy. As peasants and wage earners were forced to spend higher proportions of their income on bread, demand for manufactured goods evaporated. [36]

The American War of Independence had led to a reduction of trade (cotton and slaves), but by the 1780s Franco-American trade was stronger than before. Similarly, the Antilles represented the major source for European sugar and coffee, and it was a huge importer of slaves through Nantes. Paris became France's center of international banking and stock trades, in these last decades (like Amsterdam and London), and the Caisse d'Escompte was founded in 1776. Paper money was re-introduced, denominated in livres these were issued until 1793.

The later years of Louis XV's reign saw some economic setbacks. While the Seven Years' War, 1756–1763, led to an increase in the royal debt and the loss of nearly all of France's North American possessions, it was not until 1775 that the French economy began truly to enter a state of crisis. An extended reduction in agricultural prices over the previous twelve years, with dramatic crashes in 1777 and 1786, and further complicated by climatic events such as the disastrous winters of 1785-1789 contributed to the problem. With the government deeply in debt, King Louis XVI was forced to permit the radical reforms of Turgot and Malesherbes. However, the nobles' disaffection led to Turgot's dismissal and Malesherbes' resignation 1776. Jacques Necker replaced them. Louis supported the American Revolution in 1778, but the Treaty of Paris (1783) yielded the French little, excepting an addition to the country's enormous debt. The government was forced to increase taxes, including the "vingtième." Necker had resigned in 1781, to be replaced temporarily by Calonne and Brienne, but he was restored to power in 1788. [37]

French economic history since its late-18th century Revolution was tied to three major events and trends: the Napoleonic Era, the competition with Britain and its other neighbors in regards to 'industrialization', and the 'total wars' of the late-19th and early 20th centuries. Quantitative analysis of output data shows the French per capita growth rates were slightly smaller than Britain. However the British population tripled in size, while France grew by only third—so the overall British economy grew much faster. François Crouzet has succinctly summarized the ups and downs of French per capita economic growth in 1815-1913 as follows: [38]
1815-1840: irregular, but sometimes fast growth
1840-1860: fast growth
1860-1882: slowing down
1882-1896: stagnation
1896-1913: fast growth

For the 1870-1913 era, Angus Maddison gives growth rates for 12 Western advanced countries—10 in Europe plus the United States and Canada. [39] In terms of per capita growth, France was about average. However again its population growth was very slow, so as far as the growth rate in total size of the economy France was in next to the last place, just ahead of Italy. The 12 countries averaged 2.7% per year in total output, but France only averaged 1.6%. [40] Crouzet argues that the:

average size of industrial undertakings was smaller in France than in other advanced countries that machinery was generally less up to date, productivity lower, costs higher. The domestic system and handicraft production long persisted, while big modern factories were for long exceptional. Large lumps of the Ancien Régime economy survived. On the whole, the qualitative lag between the British and French economy. persisted during the whole period under consideration, and later on a similar lag developed between France and some other countries—Belgium, Germany, the United States. France did not succeed in catching up with Britain, but was overtaken by several of her rivals. [41]

French Revolution Edit

"The French Revolution abolished many of the constraints on the economy that had emerged during the old regime. It abolished the guild system as a worthless remnant of feudalism." [42] It also abolished the highly inefficient system of tax farming, whereby private individuals would collect taxes for a hefty fee. The government seized the foundations that had been set up (starting in the 13th century) to provide an annual stream of revenue for hospitals, poor relief, and education. The state sold the lands but typically local authorities did not replace the funding and so most of the nation's charitable and school systems were massively disrupted. [43]

The economy did poorly in 1790-96 as industrial and agricultural output dropped, foreign trade plunged, and prices soared. The government decided not to repudiate the old debts. Instead, it issued more and more paper money (called an "assignat") that supposedly were grounded seized lands. The result was escalating inflation. The government imposed price controls and persecuted speculators and traders in the black market. People increasingly refused to pay taxes as the annual government deficit increased from 10% of gross national product in 1789 to 64% in 1793. By 1795, after the bad harvest of 1794 and the removal of price controls, inflation had reached a level of 3500%. Throughout January and February 1795, the Seine River(the main source of import and export of goods at the time) froze, making it impossible to transport anything through there, such as food, luxury goods, and materials that factories depended on in order to keep running. [44] Many factories and workshops were forced to close because they had no way to operate, this led to an increased amount of unemployment. With unemployment soaring, many of the poor (most of the population) were forced to sell their belongings. [44] On the other hand, the very few who were wealthy, could afford anything they needed. "The markets were well stocked, but the food could only be bought at excessive prices". [44]

The value of the assignats "had plunged from 31 percent of that of the silver currency in July 1794 to 8 percent in March 1795" [45] The main cause of assignat depreciation was over-issuance by successive revolutionary governments, who turned to printing more and more paper notes to fund escalating expenditure, especially after the advent of war in 1792. Some 45 billion livres worth of paper had been printed by 1797, which collectively were worth less than one seventh that amount based on 1790 prices. [46] The depreciation of the assignat not only caused spiraling inflation, but had knock-on effects across the entire economy. Because assignats were legal tender, they could be used to service debt repayments at face value, although their real value stood at only a fraction of this. The losses that lenders suffered as a result led them to tighten credit and raise interest rates. Likewise the real value of national lands, which the assignats were pegged to, sank to only 25% of their face value. [46] The assignats were withdrawn in 1796 but the replacements also fueled inflation. The inflation was finally ended by Napoleon in 1803 with the gold franc as the new currency. [47]

The diminution of the economic power of the nobility and the clergy also had serious disruptive effects on the French economy. With the closure of monasteries, chapters, and cathedrals in towns like Tours, Avignon or Bayeux, thousands were deprived of their livelihoods as servants, artisans, or tradesmen. Likewise, the exodus of nobles devastated the luxury trades and led to still greater hardship for servants, as well as industries and supply networks dependent on aristocratic consumption. For those nobles who remained in France, the heated anti-aristocratic social environment dictated more modest patterns of dress and consumption, while the spiraling inflation of the assignats dramatically reduced their buying power. The plunging market for silk, for example, meant that output in the silk capital of Lyons fell by half between 1789–99, contributing to a loss of almost one-third of Lyons' pre-revolutionary population. [48]

In the cities entrepreneurship on a small scale flourished, as restrictive monopolies, privileges, barriers, rules, taxes, and guilds gave way. However, the British blockade which began in 1793 severely damaged overseas trade. The wartime exigencies enacted that year by the National Convention worsened the situation by banning the export of essential goods and embargoing neutral shipping from entering French ports. Although these restrictions were lifted in 1794, the British had managed to usurp transatlantic shipping lanes in the meantime, further reducing markets for French goods. By 1796, foreign trade accounted for just 9% of the French economy, compared to 25% in 1789. [49]

Agriculture Edit

Agriculture was transformed by the Revolution. It abolished tithes owed to local churches as well as feudal dues owed to local landlords. The result hurt the tenants, who paid both higher rents and higher taxes. [50] It nationalized all church lands, as well as lands belonging to royalist enemies who went into exile. The Government in Paris planned to use these seized lands to finance expenditure by issuing assignats. With the breakup of large estates controlled by the Church and the nobility and worked by hired hands, rural France became permanently a land of small independent farms. The rural proletariat and nobility both gave way to the commercial farmer. [51] Cobban says the revolution "bequeathed to the nation "a ruling class of landowners." [52] Most of these new landowners were bourgeois in origin, as the economic uncertainties of the 1790s and the abolition of venal office made land ownership an attractive and safe investment. [53]

However, the recruitment needs of the wartime French Republic between 1792 and 1802 led to shortages of agricultural workers. Farmers were also subject to requisition of their livestock by passing armies the consequent losses of manure negatively impacted the fertility and productivity of the land. [53]

Overall the Revolution did not greatly change the French business system and probably helped freeze in place the horizons of the small business owner. The typical businessman owned a small store, mill or shop, with family help and a few paid employees large-scale industry was less common than in other industrializing nations. [54]

Napoleon and Bourbon reaction: 1799-1830 Edit

Napoleon after 1799 paid for his expensive wars by multiple means, starting with the modernization of the rickety financial system. [55] He conscripted soldiers at low wages, raised taxes, placed large-scale loans, sold lands formerly owned by the Catholic Church, sold Louisiana to the United States, plundered conquered areas and seized food supplies, and did requisitions on countries he controlled, such as Italy. [56]

The constant "war-footing" of the Napoleonic Era, 1795–1815, stimulated production at the cost of investment and growth. Production of armaments and other military supplies, fortifications, and the general channeling of the society toward the establishment and maintenance of massed armies, temporarily increased economic activity after several years of revolution. The rampant inflation of the Revolutionary era was halted by not printing the new currency quite as fast. The maritime Continental Blockade, implemented by Napoleon's opponents and very effectively enforced by the Royal Navy, gradually cut into any economic arena in which the French economy was not self-sufficient. 1815 saw the final defeat of the French forces and the collapse of its war footing. This gave rise to a relatively peaceful period in the whole of Europe until 1914, during which important institutional reforms such as the introduction of a highly rationalized legal system could be implemented. [57]

Napoleon's impact on the French economy was of modest importance in the long run. He did sweep away the old guilds and monopolies and trade restrictions. He introduced the metric system and fostered the study of engineering. Most important he opened up French finance by the creation of the indispensable Bank of France. However, entrepreneurs had little opportunity to take advantage of these reforms. Napoleon provided a protected continental market by systematic exclusion of all imports from Britain. This had the effect of encouraging innovation in Britain, where the Industrial Revolution was well underway, and diverting the need for innovation in France. What innovation took place focused on armaments for the army, and was of little value in peacetime. In France the business crisis in 1810-1812 undermined what successes entrepreneurs had achieved. [58]

With the restoration of the Bourbons in 1814, the reactionary aristocracy with its disdain for entrepreneurship return to power. British goods flooded the market, and France responded with high tariffs and protectionism, to protect its established businesses especially handcrafts and small-scale manufacturing such as textiles. The tariff on iron goods reached 120%. [59]

Agriculture had never needed protection but now demanded it from the lower prices of imported foodstuffs, such as Russian grain. [60] French winegrowers strongly supported the tariff – their wines did not need it, but they insisted on a high tariff on the import of tea. One agrarian deputy explained: "Tea breaks down our national character by converting those who use it often into cold and stuffy Nordic types, while wine arouses in the soul that gentle gaiety that gives Frenchmen their amiable and witty national character." [61] the French government falsified the statistics to claim that exports and imports were growing – actually there was stagnation and the economic crisis of 1826-29 disillusioned the business community and readied them to support the revolution in 1830. [62]

Banking and finance Edit

Perhaps the only successful and innovative economic sector was banking. [63] Paris emerged as an international center of finance in the mid-19th century second only to London. [64] It had a strong national bank and numerous aggressive private banks that financed projects all across Europe and the expanding French Empire. Napoleon III had the goal of overtaking London to make Paris the premier financial center of the world, but the war in 1870 reduced the range of Parisian financial influence. [65] One key development was setting up one of the main branches of the Rothschild family.

In 1812, James Mayer Rothschild arrived in Paris from Frankfurt, and set up the bank "De Rothschild Frères". [66] This bank funded Napoleon's return from Elba and became one of the leading banks in European finance. The Rothschild banking family of France funded France's major wars and colonial expansion. [67] The Banque de France, founded in 1796 helped resolve the financial crisis of 1848 and emerged as a powerful central bank. The Comptoir National d'Escompte de Paris (CNEP) was established during the financial crisis and the Republican revolution of 1848. Its innovations included both private and public sources in funding large projects and the creation of a network of local offices to reach a much larger pool of depositors.

The Péreire brothers founded the Crédit Mobilier. It became a powerful and dynamic funding agency for major projects in France, Europe and the world at large. It specialized in mining developments it funded other banks including the Imperial Ottoman Bank and the Austrian Mortgage Bank it funded railway construction. [68] It also funded insurance companies and building contractors. The bank had large investments in a transatlantic steamship line, urban gas lighting, a newspaper and the Paris Paris Métro public transit system. [69] Other major banks included the Société Générale, and in the provinces the Crédit Lyonnais. After its defeat in 1871, France had to pay enormous reparations to Germany, with the German army continuing its occupation until the debt was paid. The 5 billion francs amounted to a fourth of France's GNP – and one-third of Germany's and was nearly double the usual annual exports of France. Observers thought the indemnity was unpayable and was designed to weaken France and justify long years of military occupation. However France paid it off in less than three years. The payments, in gold, acted as a powerful stimulus that dramatically increased the volume of French exports, and on the whole, produced positive economic benefits for France. [70]

The Paris Bourse or stock exchange emerged as a key market for investors to buy and sell securities. It was primarily a forward market, and it pioneered in creating a mutual guarantee fund so that failures of major brokers would not escalate into a devastating financial crisis. Speculators in the 1880s who disliked the control of the Bourse used a less regulated alternative the Coulisse. However, it collapsed in the face of the simultaneous failure of a number of its brokers in 1895–1896. The Bourse secured legislation that guaranteed its monopoly, increased control of the curb market, and reduced the risk of another financial panic. [71]

Industrialization Edit

France in 1815 was overwhelmingly a land of peasant farms, with some handicraft industry. Paris, and the other much smaller urban centers had little industry. On the onset of the nineteenth century, GDP per capita in France was lower than in Great Britain and the Netherlands. This was probably due to higher transaction costs, which were mainly caused by inefficient property rights and a transportation system geared more to military needs than to economic growth. [72]

Historians are reluctant to use the term "Industrial Revolution" for France because the slow pace seems an exaggeration for France as a whole. [73] The Industrial Revolution was well underway in Britain when the Napoleonic wars ended, and soon spread to Belgium and, to a lesser extent to northeastern France. The remainder remained little changed. The growth regions developed industry, based largely on textiles, as well as some mining. The pace of industrialization was far below Britain, Germany, the United States and Japan. The persecution of the Protestant Huguenots after 1685 led to a large-scale flight of entrepreneurial and mechanical talents that proved hard to replace. Instead French business practices were characterized by tightly held family firms, which emphasized traditionalism and paternalism. These characteristics supported a strong banking system, and made Paris a world center for luxury craftsmanship, but it slowed the building of large factories and giant corporations. Napoleon had promoted engineering education, and it paid off in the availability of well-trained graduates who developed the transportation system, especially the railways after 1840. [74]

Retailing Edit

Paris became world-famous for making consumerism a social priority and economic force, especially through its upscale arcades filled with luxury shops and its grand department stores. These were "dream machines" that set the world standard for consumption of fine products by the upper classes as well as the rising middle class. [75] Paris took the lead internationally in elaborate department stores reaching upscale consumers with luxury items and high quality goods presented in a novel and highly seductive fashion. The Paris department store had its roots in the magasin de nouveautés, or novelty store the first, the Tapis Rouge, was created in 1784. They flourished in the early 19th century, with La Belle Jardiniere (1824), Aux Trois Quartiers (1829), and Le Petit Saint Thomas (1830). Balzac described their functioning in his novel César Birotteau. In the 1840s, the new railroads brought wealthy consumers to Paris from a wide region. Luxury stores grew in size, and featured plate glass display windows, fixed prices and price tags, and advertising in newspapers. [76]

The entrepreneur Aristide Boucicaut in 1852 took Au Bon Marché, a small shop in Paris, set fixed prices (with no need to negotiate with clerks), and offered guarantees that allowed exchanges and refunds. He invested heavily in advertising, and added a wide variety of merchandise. Sales reached five million francs in 1860. In 1869 he moved to larger premises sales reached 72 million in 1877. The multi-department enterprise occupied fifty thousand square meters with 1788 employees. Half the employees were women unmarried women employees lived in dormitories on the upper floors. The success inspired numerous competitors all vying for upscale customers. [77] [78]

The French gloried in the national prestige brought by the great Parisian stores. [79] The great writer Émile Zola (1840–1902) set his novel Au Bonheur des Dames (1882–83) in the typical department store. Zola represented it as a symbol of the new technology that was both improving society and devouring it. The novel describes merchandising, management techniques, marketing, and consumerism. [80]

Other competitors moved downscale to reach much larger numbers of shoppers. The Grands Magasins Dufayel featured inexpensive prices and worked to teach workers how to shop in the new impersonal environment. Its advertisements promised the opportunity to participate in the newest, most fashionable consumerism at reasonable cost. The latest technology was featured, such as cinemas and exhibits of inventions like X-ray machines (used to fit shoes) and the gramophone. [81] Increasingly after 1870 the stores' work force included greater numbers of young women. Despite the low pay and long hours they gained access to the newest and most fashionable merchandise and to interactions with upscale customers. [82]

By the 21st century, the grand Paris department stores had difficulty surviving in the new economic world. In 2015, just four remained Au Bon Marché, now owned by the luxury goods firm LVMH BHV Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.

Railways Edit

In France, railways became a national medium for the modernization of backward regions, and a leading advocate of this approach was the poet-politician Alphonse de Lamartine. One writer hoped that railways might improve the lot of "populations two or three centuries behind their fellows" and eliminate 'the savage instincts born of isolation and misery." [83] Consequently, France built a centralized system that radiated from Paris (plus lines that cut east to west in the south). This design was intended to achieve political and cultural goals rather than maximize efficiency. After some consolidation, six companies controlled monopolies of their regions, subject to close control by the government in terms of fares, finances, and even minute technical details. The central government department of Ponts et Chaussées (bridges and roads, or the Highways Department) brought in British engineers and workers, handled much of the construction work, provided engineering expertise and planning, land acquisition, and construction of permanent infrastructure such as the track bed, bridges and tunnels. It also subsidized militarily necessary lines along the German border, which was considered necessary for the national defense. [84] In 1878, the Minister of Public Works Charles de Freycinet launched an ambitious public works program, often called the Freycinet Plan, to counter the economic downturn which had arisen in the late 1870s. The plan involved the purchasing of railroads by the state and the financing of new railways, waterways, and roads. [85] [86] Around 150 lines were constructed under this program, which was nearly complete by 1914. [87]

Private operating companies provided management, hired labor, laid the tracks, and built and operated stations. They purchased and maintained the rolling stock—6,000 locomotives were in operation in 1880, which averaged 51,600 passengers a year or 21,200 tons of freight. Much of the equipment was imported from Britain and therefore did not stimulate machinery makers. Although starting the whole system at once was politically expedient, it delayed completion, and forced even more reliance on temporary exports brought in from Britain. Financing was also a problem. The solution was a narrow base of funding through the Rothschilds and the closed circles of the Bourse in Paris, so France did not develop the same kind of national stock exchange that flourished in London and New York. The system did help modernize the parts of rural France it reached, but it did not help create local industrial centers. [88] Critics such as Émile Zola complained that it never overcame the corruption of the political system, but rather contributed to it. [89]

The railways helped the industrial revolution in France by facilitating a national market for raw materials, wines, cheeses, and imported manufactured products. Yet the goals set by the French for their railway system were moralistic, political, and military rather than economic. As a result, the freight trains were shorter and less heavily loaded than those in such rapidly industrializing nations such as Britain, Belgium or Germany. Other infrastructure needs in rural France, such as better roads and canals, were neglected because of the expense of the railways, so it seems likely that there were net negative effects in areas not served by the trains. [90]

Total War Edit

In 1870 the relative decline in industrial strength, compared to Bismarck's Germany, proved decisive in the Franco-Prussian War. The total defeat of France, in this conflict, was less a demonstration of French weakness than it was of German militarism and industrial strength. This contrasted with France's occupation of Germany during the Napoleonic wars. By 1914, however, German armament and general industrialization had out-distanced not only France but all of its neighbors. Just before 1914, France was producing about one-sixth as much coal as Germany, and a quarter as much steel. [91]

Modernization of peasants Edit

France was a rural nation as late as 1940, but a major change took place after railways started arriving in the 1850s–60s. In his seminal book Peasants Into Frenchmen (1976), historian Eugen Weber traced the modernization of French villages and argued that rural France went from backward and isolated to modern and possessing a sense of French nationhood during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. [92] He emphasized the roles of railroads, republican schools, and universal military conscription. He based his findings on school records, migration patterns, military service documents and economic trends. Weber argued that until 1900 or so a sense of French nationhood was weak in the provinces. Weber then looked at how the policies of the Third Republic created a sense of French nationality in rural areas. The book was widely praised, but was criticized by some, such as Ted W. Margadant, who argued that a sense of Frenchness already existed in the provinces before 1870. [93]

French national policy was protectionist with regard to agricultural products, to protect the very large agricultural population, especially through the Méline tariff of 1892. France maintained two forms of agriculture, a modern, mechanized, capitalistic system in the Northeast, and in the rest of the country a reliance on subsistence agriculture on very small farms with low income levels. [94] Modernization of the subsistence sector began in the 1940s, and resulted in a rapid depopulation of rural France, although protectionist measures remained national policy. [95]

Economic growth rates in France, 1900-1999
Decade average annual growth rate
1900s 2.27%
1910s 1.89%
1920s 4.43%
1930s 0.63%
1945-49 2.16%
1950s 3.85%
1960s 4.98%
1970s 3.10%
1980s 2.02%
1990s 1.30%
Source: Jean-Pierre Dormois, The French Economy in the Twentieth Century (2004) p 31

The overall growth rate of the French economy shows a very strong performance in the 1920s and again in the 1960s, with poor performances in the 1910s, 1930s, and 1990s. [96]

World War I Edit

The economy was critically hurt by the German seizure of major industrial areas in the northeast. While the occupied area in 1913 contained only 14% of France's industrial workers, it produced 58% of the steel, and 40% of the coal. [97] Considerable relief came with the massive influx of American food, money and raw materials in 1917-1928. [98] The Dalbiez Law of August 1915 set the number of workers required for the different sectors of the war economy, in an attempt to balance the labor needs of industry with the conscription requirements of the army. Individual examinations were established to keep workers in factories, and under the Dalbiez Law "military workers" under the control of the war ministry were deployed away from the front to work in the war economy. [99]

Agricultural productivity fell precipitately due to the German occupation, the requisitioning of draught animals, as well as manpower, fertilizer, and machinery shortages. At its lowest point in 1917, the grain harvest was 40% below pre-war levels. The high prices for agricultural products which resulted were a boon for farmers, incentivizing "superhuman efforts" to cultivate by those left behind on farms. [100] Separation allowances provided to the dependents of soldiers also gave an unexpected boost to the income of poor, rural families. Many peasants were able to pay off debts, purchase more land, and enjoy a higher quality of living. Conversely, the urban population and industrial workers became increasingly discontented with rising food prices, and the failure of their wages to keep pace. [101]

French credit collapsed in 1916 and Britain began loaning large sums to Paris. The J.P. Morgan & Co bank in New York assumed control of French loans in the fall of 1916 and relinquished it to the U.S. government when the U.S. entered the war in 1917. [102] [103] On the other hand, the economy was helped by American loans which were used to purchase foods and manufactured goods that allowed a decent standard of living. The arrival of over a million American soldiers in 1918 brought heavy spending for food and construction materials. Labor shortages were in part alleviated by the use of volunteer and forced labor from the colonies.

The war damages amounted to about 113% of the GDP of 1913, chiefly the destruction of productive capital and housing. 91% of settlements across 10 départements in the north and northeast suffered material damage, and 620 communes were destroyed. [104] The national debt rose from 66% of GDP in 1913 to 170% in 1919, reflecting the heavy use of bond issues to pay for the war. Inflation was severe, with the franc losing over half its value against the British pound. [105]

1919–1929 Edit

The war effort and the occupation of French territory by Germany had dealt a heavy blow to the French economy. Overall French industrial and agricultural production was down 45% in 1919 compared to 1913. [106] Infrastructure in the occupied region - towns, villages, factories, mines, and railways - suffered extensive destruction and/or over-exploitation in the case of mines and factories, reducing their output. Prime agricultural land had been ruined and livestock lost. 27% of young men between the ages of 18 and 27 were killed, with a consequent negative impact on marriages and births which would impact the labor force in the 1930s. [107] Fertility rates sharply declined during the First World War, with the deficit of births estimated to be 1.4 million. Combined with an equivalent number of casualties, the French population was 2.8 million people smaller than it otherwise would have been due to the war. [108]

At the Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vengeance against defeated Germany was the main French theme. France demanded full payment by Germany of the damages it imposed in the German-occupied areas. It also wanted the full cost of postwar veterans benefits. Prime Minister Clemenceau was largely effective against the moderating influences of the British and Americans. France obtained large (but unspecified) reparations, regained Alsace-Lorraine and obtained mandates to rule parts of former German colonies in Africa. [109]

In January 1923 as a response to the failure of the German to ship enough coal as part of its reparations, France (and Belgium) occupied the industrial region of the Ruhr. Germany responded with passive resistance including printing vast amounts of marks to pay for the occupation, thereby causing runaway inflation. Inflation heavily damaged the German middle class (because their bank accounts became worthless) but it also damaged the French franc. France fomented a separatist movement pointing to an independent buffer state, but it collapsed after some bloodshed. The intervention was a failure, and in summer 1924 France accepted the American solution to the reparations issues, as expressed in the Dawes Plan. [110]

Industrial productivity returned to pre-war levels by 1924 and by 1929 it was 40% above 1913 levels. [111] The French government eased immigration rules to offset the manpower shortage - some 2 million workers arrived in France as a result. [112] Inflation was a serious problem, fueled by high government borrowing and a huge increase in the amount of money in circulation (37,900 million francs were in circulation at the end of 1920, compared to 6000 million in 1914). Consumer prices doubled between 1922 and 1926, and the franc suffered continual devaluation (in 1914 one British Pound was worth 25 francs, by July 1926 one Pound was worth 243 francs). [113] The devaluation of the franc was a boon for exports, while inflation reduced the debt burden. As a result, "most social groups seem to have enjoyed rising real incomes, in the case of workers for example by somewhere between 9 and 26 per cent." [114] The government of Raymond Poincaré, which came to power in July 1926, managed to stabilize France's financial situation by reducing government expenditure, raising interest rates, raising taxes, and returning in part to the gold standard in June 1928. This placed the value of the franc at one-fifth of its' pre-war level, which kept French goods competitive internationally. [115]

Great Depression Edit

The worldwide decline after 1929 affected France a bit later than other countries, hitting around 1931. [116] The depression was relatively mild: unemployment peaked under 5%, the fall in production was at most 20% below the 1929 output there was no banking crisis. [117] But the depression also lasted longer in France than in most other countries. Like many other countries, France had introduced the gold standard in the nineteenth century, meaning that it was generally possible to exchange bank notes for gold. Unlike other countries (e.g. Great Britain, which abandoned the gold standard in 1931), France stuck to the gold standard until 1936, which caused a number of problems in times of recession and deflation. France lost competitiveness relative to Great Britain, because the latter was able to offer its products at a cheaper price due to the devaluation of its currency after leaving the gold standard. [118] Furthermore, terminating fixed exchange rate regimes opened up opportunities for expansive monetary policy and thus influenced consumers’ expectations of future inflation, which was crucial for domestic demand. The French economy only started to recover when France abandoned the gold standard. [119]

However, the depression had some effects on the local economy, and partly explains the February 6, 1934 riots and even more the formation of the Popular Front, led by SFIO socialist leader Léon Blum, which won the elections in 1936.

France's relatively high degree of self-sufficiency meant the damage was considerably less than in nations like Germany. [ citation needed ]

Popular Front: 1936 Edit

Hardship and unemployment were high enough to lead to rioting and the rise of the socialist Popular Front, which won the 1936 elections with a coalition of Socialists and Radicals, and support from the Communists. Léon Blum became the first Socialist prime minister.

The election brought a massive wave of strikes, with involving 2 million workers, and their seizure of many factories and stores. The strikes were spontaneous and unorganized, but nevertheless the business community panicked and met secretly with Blum, Who negotiated a series of reforms, and then gave labor unions the credit for the Matignon Accords. [120] [121] The new laws:

  • confirmed the right to strike
  • generalised collective bargaining
  • enacted the law mandating 12 days of paid annual leave
  • enacted the law limiting the working week to 40 hours (outside of overtime)
  • raised wages (15% for the lowest-paid workers, and 7% for the relatively well-paid)
  • stipulated that employers would recognise shop stewards.
  • ensured that there would be no retaliation against strikers.
  • created a national Office du blé (Grain Board or Wheat Office, through which the government helped to market agricultural produce at fair prices for farmers) to stabilise prices and curb speculation
  • nationalised the arms industries
  • made loans to small and medium-sized industries
  • began a major public works programme
  • raised the pay, pensions, and allowances of public-sector workers
  • The 1920 Sales Tax, opposed by the Left as a tax on consumers, was abolished and replaced by a production tax, which was considered to be a tax on the producer instead of the consumer.

Blum persuaded the workers to accept pay raises and go back to work. Wages increased sharply, in two years the national average was up 48 percent. However inflation also rose 46%. The imposition of the 40-hour week proved highly inefficient, as industry had a difficult time adjusting to it. [122] The economic confusion hindered the rearmament effort, and the rapid growth of German armaments alarmed Blum. He launched a major program to speed up arms production. The cost forced the abandonment of the social reform programs of the popular front had counted heavily on. [123]

Legacy of Popular Front Edit

Economic historians point to numerous bad financial and economic policies, such as delayed devaluation of the franc, which made French exports uncompetitive. [124] Economists especially emphasize the bad effects of the 40-hour week, which made overtime illegal, forcing employers to stop work or to replace their best workers with inferior and less experienced workers when that 40-hour limit was reached. More generally the argument is made that France could not afford the labor reforms, in the face of poor economic conditions, the fears of the business community and the threat of Nazi Germany. [125] [126]

Some historians have judged the Popular Front a failure in terms of economics, foreign policy, and long-term political stability. "Disappointment and failure," says Jackson, "was the legacy of the Popular Front." [127] However, it did inspire later reformers who set up the modern French welfare state. [128]

Vichy France, 1940–1944 Edit

Conditions in Vichy France under German occupation were very harsh, because the Germans stripped France of millions of workers (as prisoners of war and "voluntary" workers), and as well stripped much of the food supply, while demanding heavy cash payments. It was a period of severe economic hardship under a totalitarian government.

Vichy rhetoric exalted the skilled laborer and small businessman. In practice, however, the needs of artisans for raw materials was neglected in favor of large businesses. [129] The General Committee for the Organization of Commerce (CGOC) was a national program to modernize and professionalize small business. [130]

In 1940 the government took direct control of all production, which was synchronized with the demands of the Germans. It replaced free trade unions with compulsory state unions that dictated labor policy without regard to the voice or needs of the workers. The centralized, bureaucratic control of the French economy was not a success, as German demands grew heavier and more unrealistic, passive resistance and inefficiencies multiplied, and Allied bombers hit the rail yards however, Vichy made the first comprehensive long-range plans for the French economy. The government had never before attempted a comprehensive overview. De Gaulle's Provisional Government in 1944-45, quietly used the Vichy plans as a base for its own reconstruction program. The Monnet Plan of 1946 was closely based on Vichy plans. [131] Thus both teams of wartime and early postwar planners repudiated prewar laissez-faire practices and embraced the cause of drastic economic overhaul and a planned economy. [132]

Forced labor Edit

Nazi Germany kept nearly 2.5 million French Army POWs as forced laborers throughout the war. They added compulsory (and volunteer) workers from occupied nations, especially in metal factories. The shortage of volunteers led the Vichy government to pass a law in September 1941 that effectively deported workers to Germany, where, they constituted 17% of the labor force by August 1943. The largest number worked in the giant Krupp steel works in Essen. Low pay, long hours, frequent bombings, and crowded air raid shelters added to the unpleasantness of poor housing, inadequate heating, limited food, and poor medical care, all compounded by harsh Nazi discipline. They finally returned home in the summer of 1945. [133] The forced labour draft encouraged the French Resistance and undermined the Vichy government. [134]

Food shortages Edit

Civilians suffered shortages of all varieties of consumer goods. [135] The rationing system was stringent but badly mismanaged, leading to produced malnourishment, black markets, and hostility to state management of the food supply. The Germans seized about 20% of the French food production, which caused severe disruption to the household economy of the French people. [136] French farm production fell in half because of lack of fuel, fertilizer and workers even so the Germans seized half the meat, 20 percent of the produce, and 2 percent of the champagne. [137] Supply problems quickly affected French stores which lacked most items. The government answered by rationing, but German officials set the policies and hunger prevailed, especially affecting youth in urban areas. The queues lengthened in front of shops. Some people—including German soldiers—benefited from the black market, where food was sold without tickets at very high prices. Farmers especially diverted meat to the black market, which meant that much less for the open market. Counterfeit food tickets were also in circulation. Direct buying from farmers in the countryside and barter against cigarettes became common. These activities were strictly forbidden, however, and thus carried out at the risk of confiscation and fines. Food shortages were most acute in the large cities. In the more remote country villages, however, clandestine slaughtering, vegetable gardens and the availability of milk products permitted better survival. The official ration provided starvation level diets of 1300 or fewer calories a day, supplemented by home gardens and, especially, black market purchases. [138]

The great hardships of wartime, and of the immediate post-war period, were succeeded by a period of steady economic development, in France, now often fondly recalled there as The Thirty Glorious Years (Les Trente Glorieuses). Alternating policies of "interventionist" and "free market" ideas enabled the French to build a society in which both industrial and technological advances could be made but also worker security and privileges established and protected. In the year 1946 France signed a treaty with US that waved off a large part of its debt. It was known as The Blum-Byrnes agreement (in French accord Blum-Byrnes) which was a French-American agreement, signed May 28, 1946 by the Secretary of State James F. Byrnes and representatives of the French government Léon Blum and Jean Monnet. This agreement erased part of the French debt to the United States after the Second World War (2 billion dollars).

By the end of the 20th century, France once again was among the leading economic powers of the world, although by the year 2000 there already was some fraying around the edges: people in France and elsewhere were asking whether France alone, without becoming even more an integral part of a pan-European economy, would have sufficient market presence to maintain its position, and that worker security and those privileges, in an increasingly "Globalized" and "transnational" economic world.

Reconstruction and the Welfare State Edit

Reconstruction began at the end of the war, in 1945, and confidence in the future was brought back. With the baby boom (which had started as soon as 1942) the birthrate surged rapidly. It took several years to fix the damages caused by the war – battles and bombing had destroyed several cities, factories, bridges, railway infrastructures. [139] 1,200,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged. [140]

In 1945, the provisional government of the French Republic, led by Charles de Gaulle and made up of communists, socialists and gaullists, nationalized key economic sectors (energy, air transport, savings banks, assurances) and big companies (e.g. Renault), with the creation of Social Security and of works councils. [139] A welfare state was set up. Economic planning was initiated with the Commissariat général du Plan in 1946, led by Jean Monnet. The first « Plan de modernisation et d’équipement », for the 1947-1952 period, focused on basic economic activities (energy, steel, cement, transports, agriculture equipment) the second Plan (1954–1957) had broader aims: housing construction, urban development, scientific research, manufacturing industries. [139] [141]

The debts left over from the First World War, whose payment had been suspended since 1931, was renegotiated in the Blum-Byrnes agreement of 1946. The U.S. forgave all $2.8 billion in debt, and gave France a new loan of $650 million. In return French negotiator Jean Monnet set out the French five-year plan for recovery and development. American films were now allowed in French cinemas three weeks per month. [142]

Nationalized industries Edit

The nationalization of major industries took place in the 1930s and 1940s but was never complete. The railways were nationalized in 1937 because they were losing money, but were strategically important. Likewise, the aeronautics and armaments industries were nationalized. During the war, the Vichy government froze wages, froze prices, controlled external trade, and supervise the distribution of raw materials to the manufacturing sector. The French economy accepted increasing levels of nationalization without major political opposition. After the war, the power industry, gas, and electricity were nationalized in 1946, with the goal of bringing increased efficiency. Banking and insurance were nationalized along with iron and steel. However, oil was not considered so important and was not nationalized. The enlarge role of government necessitated systematic national planning, which was a key feature of the postwar industries. [143]

Monnet Plan Edit

To aid the rebuilding of the French economy, the value of stolen resources were recovered from defeated Germany under the Monnet Plan. As part of this policy, German factories were disassembled and moved to France, and the coal-rich industrial Saar Protectorate was occupied by France, as had been done post-World War I, in the Territory of the Saar Basin. Thus in the 1947–1956 period, France benefited from the resources and production of the Saar, and continued to extract coal from the Warndt coal deposit until 1981. The Saarland reunited with Germany in 1957, and resolution of its situation led to the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community, precursor to the European Union, which played a significant role in Europe and France's economy in the later post-war period.

Economic recovery Edit

Although the economic situation in France was very grim in 1945, resources did exist and the economy regained normal growth by the 1950s. [144] The US government had planned a major aid program, but it unexpectedly ended Lend Lease in late summer 1945, and additional aid was stymied by Congress in 1945-46. However there were $2 billion in American loans. France managed to regain its international status thanks to a successful production strategy, a demographic spurt, and technical and political innovations. Conditions varied from firm to firm. Some had been destroyed or damaged, nationalized or requisitioned, but the majority carried on, sometimes working harder and more efficiently than before the war. Industries were reorganized on a basis that ranged from consensual (electricity) to conflictual (machine tools), therefore producing uneven results. Despite strong American pressure through the ERP, there was little change in the organization and content of the training for French industrial managers. This was mainly due to the reticence of the existing institutions and the struggle among different economic and political interest groups for control over efforts to improve the further training of practitioners. [145]

The Monnet Plan provided a coherent framework for economic policy, and it was strongly supported by the Marshall Plan. It was inspired by moderate, Keynesian free-trade ideas rather than state control. Although relaunched in an original way, the French economy was about as productive as comparable West European countries. [146]

The United States helped revive the French economy with the Marshall Plan whereby it gave France $2.3 billion with no repayment. France agreed to reduce trade barriers and modernize its management system. The total of all American grants and credits to France, 1946–53, came to $4.9 billion, and low-interest loans added another $2 billion. [147] The Marshall Plan set up intensive tours of American industry. France sent 500 missions with 4700 businessmen and experts to tour American factories, farms, stores and offices. They were especially impressed with the prosperity of American workers, and how they could purchase an inexpensive new automobile for nine months work, compared to 30 months in France. [148] Some French businesses resisted Americanization, but others seized upon it to attract American investments and build a larger market. The industries that were most Americanized included chemicals, oil, electronics, and instrumentation. They were the most innovative, and most profitable sectors. [149]

Claude Fohlen argues that:

In all then, France received 7,000 million dollars, which were used either to finance the imports needed to get the economy off the ground again or to implement the Monnet Plan. Without the Marshall Plan, however, the economic recovery would have been a much slower process – particularly in France, where American aid provided funds for the Monnet Plan and thereby restored equilibrium in the equipment industries, which govern the recovery of consumption, and opened the way. To continuing further growth. This growth was affected by a third factor. decolonization. [150]

Les Trente Glorieuses: 1947–1973 Edit

Between 1947 and 1973, France went through a booming period (5% per year in average) dubbed by Jean Fourastié Trente Glorieuses, title of a book published in 1979. [151] Between 1946 and the end of the 1960s, the population grew by a record 30%. By 1967, one in three adults was under the age of 20. [152] Population growth was due not only to a higher birth rate, but to a declining mortality rate fueled by improvements in medical care, housing, and nutrition. [153] The infant mortality rate fell from 52.0 in 1950 to 18.2 in 1970. The economic growth was mainly due to productivity gains and to an increase in the number of working hours. Indeed, the working population was growing very slowly, the baby boom being offset by the extension of the time dedicated to studies. Investment as a percentage of GNP rose from around 20% per annum in the 1950s to a peak of 24.7% in 1974, the highest in Europe. Because of currency controls and "the limited mobility of international capital", lenders invested at home and not abroad. [154] Investment fueled continual improvements in production methods, making products like automobiles more affordable for average people. [155]

Through "indicative planning" the French government used its power to direct investment towards targeted industries, regions, and specific products. [156] The state was concerned with stimulating continuous modernization and restructuring, which it encouraged through communication improvements, tax policy, export credits, and ensuring access to cheap loans for firms. Projects and industries considered to be of "strategic national importance" could also count on support from the French state. These included the nuclear power program, the armaments industry, infrastructure, and the aerospace industry. [157]

During the 1950's agricultural productivity soared. France went from being an importer of food to meet the needs of its population, to self-sufficiency and surplus output. The third Modernization Plan of 1957-1961 put an emphasis on investing in the staple agricultural products of Northern France and the Paris region: meat, milk, cheese, wheat, and sugar. [158] The desire to find export markets for this surplus was an important factor in the French decision to join the European Economic Community in 1957. France won concessions like price supports, income supports for farmers, and a commitment from its fellow member nations to buy up French agricultural surpluses. In exchange, the country eliminated tariffs and opened its market to German non-agricultural exports. [159] [160] Tariffs between EEC nations were eliminated in practice by 1968, and the economy and French consumers benefited from imports of Italian domestic appliances like refrigerators and washing machines, or machine tools from West Germany. EEC membership resulted in structural change, high levels of growth, soaring levels of trade between France and her EEC partners, and high levels of investment. Businessmen and farmers experienced some difficulty in adapting to the greater competition and homogeneity of the common market. The "stimulus to change" from membership was most effective in industries with a comparative advantage: agriculture, food processing, aircraft and automobile manufacturing. [161] The importance of third-world markets in the French Empire waned as the economy restructured to meet the demands of a more dynamic European market for high quality goods. In the late 1950s, the "franc area" was the destination for over 25% of French exports, twenty years later it was only 5%. [162]

Productivity gains came from the catching up with the United States. In 1950, the average income in France was 55% of an American and reached 80% in 1973. Between 1960 and 1975, income per capita almost doubled. [163] Among the major nations, only Japan and Spain had faster growth in this era than France. [164] [165] The national government's industrial policy was used to bolster French industries. [166]

Insisting that the period was not that of an economic miracle, but a mere catching up following an economic lag, French historian Jacques Marseille noted that if the economy had constantly grown at the same rate as that of the « Belle Époque », the wealth would have been the same at the beginning of the 1970s as that actually reached after the Trente glorieuses. [167]

Rural living Edit

With government support, active farmers bought out their neighbors, enlarge their properties, and use the latest in mechanization, new seeds, fertilizers, and new techniques. The result was a revolution in agricultural output, as well as a sharply reduced number of active farmers from 7.4 million in 1946 to only 2 million in 1975. It also resulted in millions of empty old farm houses. They were promptly purchased and upgraded by Frenchmen who wanted a rural retreat away from the frenzy of their primary work in the cities. For many it was in nostalgia for family memories of rural living that drew the city dwellers back to the countryside. By 1978, France was the world leader in per capita ownership of second homes and L’Express reported an "irresistible infatuation of the French for the least Norman thatched house, Cévenol sheep barn or the most modest Provençal farmhouse." [168]

The economic crisis Edit

By the late 1960s, France's economic growth, while strong, was beginning to lose steam. A global currency crisis meant a devaluation of the Franc against the West German Mark and the U.S. Dollar in 1968, which was one of the leading factors for the social upheaval of that year.

The Trente glorieuses era ended with the worldwide 1973 oil crisis, which increased costs in energy and thus on production. Economic instability marked the Giscard d'Estaing government (1974-1981). Giscard turned to Prime Minister Raymond Barre in 1976, who advocated numerous complex, strict policies ("Barre Plans"). The first Barre plan emerged on 22 September 1976, with a priority to stop inflation. It included a 3-month price freeze a reduction in the value added tax wage controls salary controls a reduction of the growth in the money supply and increases in the income tax, automobile taxes, luxury taxes and bank rates. There were measures to restore the trade balance, and support the growth of the economy and employment. Oil imports, whose price had shot up, were limited. There was special aid to exports, and an action fund was set up to aid industries. There was increased financial aid to farmers, who were suffering from a drought, and for social security. The package was not very popular, but was pursued with vigor. [169] [170]

Economic troubles continued into the early years of the presidency of François Mitterrand. A recession in the early 1980s, which led to the abandonment of dirigisme in favour of a more pragmatic approach to economic intervention. [171] Growth resumed later in the decade, only to be slowed down by the economic depression of the early 1990s, which affected the Socialist Party. Liberalisation under Jacques Chirac in the late 1990s strengthened the economy. However, after 2005 the world economy stagnated and the 2008 global crisis and its effects in both the Eurozone and France itself dogged the conservative government of Nicolas Sarkozy, who lost reelection in 2012 against Socialist Francois Hollande. [172]

France's recent economic history has been less turbulent than in many other countries. The average income in France, after having been steady for a long time, increased elevenfold between 1700 and 1975, which constitutes a 0.9% growth rate per year, a rate which has been outdone almost every year since 1975: By the early Eighties, for instance, wages in France were on or slightly above the EEC average. [173]

The financial crisis of 2008 and aftermath Edit

France, like a number of countries, was affected by the 2008 financial crisis. However, during the worst part of the crisis, between 2008-2010, France fared better than other industrialized countries. For example, the Euro zone's overall GDP decreased by 4 percent, while France's GDP only decreased by 2.2 percent. This resilience is linked to France's social protection system, which, through the transfers it organizes (47 percent of gross disposable household income in 2007) equips France with strong economic stabilizers. However, these stabilizers weigh inversely on recovery. Starting in 2012, many countries experienced economic recoveries, where the analysis of the indicators of economic activity in France do not show a clear recovery, or rather do not show an increased growth during this time. [174]


Trade of France

France, a leading trading nation, has grown into one of the world’s foremost exporting countries, with the value of exports representing more than one-fifth of GDP. France is also a major importer, especially of machinery, chemicals and chemical products, tropical agricultural products, and traditional industrial goods such as clothes and textiles. The high level of imports led to a trade deficit for much of the period between the early 1970s and early 1990s. However, from 1992 France experienced a trade surplus, combined with a positive balance from invisible (nonmerchandise) transactions, especially tourism.

Most foreign trade is based on the exchange of goods. In the case of agricultural commodities, France has become an increasingly important net exporter of raw agricultural products (such as grains) as well as agro-industrial products, such as foods and beverages, including wines, tinned fruits and vegetables, and dairy products. The need to import large quantities of oil (and to a lesser extent gas and coal), however, has resulted in a sizable deficit for those exchanges. Although France imports a great deal of industrial goods, the country has long been a major exporter of vehicles and transport equipment, as well as armaments and professional electronics. More recently exports of pharmaceuticals and parachemical products have risen.

The greater part of foreign trade is carried out with other developed countries, and some four-fifths of transactions take place with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Among these the EU plays a major role, reflecting the growing exchange of goods and services between its member countries. More than three-fifths of French exports and imports are destined for or originate in EU countries, of which Germany is easily the most important. Outside the EU the United States is France’s other major trading partner, although Russia and China claimed a growing percentage of French trade in the 21st century. EU countries are an important source of industrial imports, whereas fuel products and raw materials tend to originate from more distant sources. Conversely, agricultural and food exports are oriented predominantly toward European markets, whereas industrial goods are exported to a more global marketplace.


What were the major imports and exports of Germany and France from 1850-1915? - History

1915 : A Global Conflict

January 17, 1915 - The initial Turkish offensive into Russia is thwarted as the Turkish 3rd Army suffers a defeat by the Russian Army of the Caucasus near Kars. The Russians then begin a multi-pronged invasion of the Ottoman Empire from the Caucasus.

January 19, 1915 - Germany begins an aerial bombing campaign against Britain using Zeppelins.

January 31, 1915 - Poison gas is used for the first time in the war as Germans on the Eastern Front attack Russian positions west of Warsaw. Although the Germans fire 18,000 gas shells, they have little effect on the Russians as frigid temperatures prevent the gas from vaporizing.

February 1915 - The Turks begin forced deportations of Armenians. Over the next two years, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians will either starve to death, die of thirst in the Syrian Desert, or be murdered by Turkish troops and bandits, during the Armenian Genocide.

February 3, 1915 - Turkish troops launch an unsuccessful attack against the British-controlled Suez Canal, which is regularly used by the British to ferry Dominion troops from Australia, New Zealand and India to European battle grounds.

February 4, 1915 - Germany declares the waters surrounding British Isles to be a war zone in which ships can be sunk without warning.

February 7-22, 1915 - On the Eastern Front in Europe, the German 8th and 10th Armies wage a successful offensive against the Russian 10th Army in the Masurian Lakes region of East Prussia, pushing the Russians eastward into the Augustow Forest where they are decimated.

February 16, 1915 - On the Western Front, the French launch their second offensive against German defense lines in Champagne. Once again they are hampered by the muddy winter weather and a lack of heavy artillery. After a month of fighting, suffering 240,000 casualties, the exhausted French break off the offensive.

U-Boat Warfare Begins

February 18, 1915 - The first German U-Boat campaign of the war begins with unrestricted attacks against merchant and passenger ships in the waters around the British Isles. Within six months, Allied shipping losses at sea surpass the number of new ships being built. However, the unrestricted attacks also arouse the anger of the neutral United States as Americans are killed.

March 1915 - The British Navy imposes a total sea blockade on Germany, prohibiting all shipping imports including food.

March 10, 1915 - British and Indian troops in the Artois region of northern France attack the Germans around the village of Neuve Chapelle. The attack takes the outnumbered Germans by surprise. The British achieve their initial objective but fail to capitalize on the narrow breach they create in the German lines. After three days of fighting, with over 11,000 casualties, the British offensive is suspended. The Germans suffer over 10,000 casualties.

March 22, 1915 - The Russians capture 120,000 Austrians at Przemysl in Galicia. This marks the culmination of a series of winter battles between the Austrians and Russians to secure the strategic Carpathian Mountain passes and opens the way for a Russian invasion of Hungary. Realizing this, the Germans and Austrians make plans to combine their troops and launch a major spring offensive.

April 11, 1915 - British troops in Mesopotamia fend off a large attack by the Turks against Basra. The British then branch out to protect their position at Basra, and proceed up the Tigris Valley toward Baghdad.

Second Battle of Ypres
April 22-May 25, 1915

April 22, 1915 - Poison gas is used for the first time on the Western Front as the German 4th Army attacks French positions around Ypres in northern Belgium. As they attack, the Germans release chlorine gas from over 5,000 cylinders forming poisonous green clouds that drift toward two French African divisions. Lacking any protection, the French quickly retreat. Although this creates a five-mile-wide gap in the Allied lines, the Germans fail to capitalize due to a lack of reserve troops and cautious frontline troops hesitant to venture too close to the gas clouds. British and Canadians then plug the gap but are unable to regain any ground taken by the Germans. The British then withdraw to a second line of defense, leaving Ypres in Allied hands but virtually surrounded. Casualties in the Second Battle of Ypres total 58,000 Allies and 38,000 Germans.

April 25, 1915 - Allied troops land on the Gallipoli Peninsula in an attempt to unblock the Dardanelles Straits near Constantinople (present day Istanbul, Turkey) to reopen access to Russia through the Black Sea. The landing comes after a failed attempt by British and French warships to force their way through the narrow Straits. The 70,000 landing troops include 15,000 Australians and New Zealanders. The peninsula is heavily defended by Turkish troops, supplied and trained by Germans. Within two weeks, a stalemate develops as the Allies fail to gain any of their objectives and the Turks begin a series of costly attacks attempting to drive out the Allies.

May 1, 1915 - German U-Boats sink their first American merchant ship, the tanker Gulflight, in the Mediterranean Sea near Sicily.

May 2, 1915 - On the Eastern Front, a combined Austro-German offensive begins against the Russian 3rd Army at Tarnow and Gorlice in Galicia. The attack is preceded by a massive artillery bombardment with over 700,000 shells. This breaks down the defenses of the weakened Russians who now suffer from shortages of artillery shells and rifles. Within two days, the Austro-Germans break through the lines and the Russians begin a disorganized retreat.

Lusitania Sunk

May 7, 1915 - A German U-Boat torpedoes the British passenger liner Lusitania off the Irish coast. It sinks in 18 minutes, drowning 1,201 persons, including 128 Americans. President Woodrow Wilson subsequently sends four diplomatic protests to Germany.

May 9, 1915 - Following six days of artillery bombardment by over a thousand French guns, the French 10th Army attacks German defense lines in the Artois, advancing toward Vimy Ridge. The French achieve their initial objective, but fail to capitalize on the narrow breach they create in the German lines. The next day, Germans counter-attack and push back the French.

May 9, 1915 - Complementing the French offensive at Vimy, British and Indian troops launch their second attack against the Germans around Neuve Chapelle in the Artois. However, without sufficient artillery support to weaken the German frontline defenses, the advancing soldiers are decimated by German machine-gun fire. The attack is called off the next day with 11,000 casualties.

May 15, 1915 - British and Indian troops launch another attack against Germans in the Artois, this time at Festubert, north of Neuve Chapelle. The attack is preceded by a 60-hour artillery bombardment. But the troops advance just 1,000 yards while suffering 16,000 casualties.

May 23, 1915 - Italy enters the war on the side of the Allies by declaring war on Austria-Hungary. The Italians then launch offensives along the 400-mile common border between Austria and Italy. The better equipped Austrians take advantage of the mountainous terrain to establish strong defensive positions all along the border. The Italians then focus their attacks on the mountain passes at Trentino and the valley of the Isonzo River.

May 31, 1915 - The first aerial bombing of London occurs as German Zeppelins kill 28 persons.

June 12, 1915 - After pausing to regroup, Austro-German troops resume their offensive in Galicia on the Eastern Front. Within five days, they break through the Russian lines and push the Russian 3rd and 8th Armies further eastward. Russian casualties soon surpass 400,000.

June 16, 1915 - The French 10th Army launches its second attempt to seize Vimy Ridge from the Germans in the Artois. This time the troops encounter an intensive artillery bombardment from the improved defenses of the German 6th Army. The French achieve their initial objective, but then succumb to a German counter-attack, just as they did in the first attempt at Vimy. The French call off the Vimy offensive with 100,000 casualties. The Germans suffer 60,000.

June 23, 1915 - The First Battle of Isonzo begins as Italian troops attack Austrian defenses. Initial gains by the Italians are soon repulsed by the Austrians with heavy casualties for both sides. Three additional battles are fought through the end of 1915 with similar results, totaling 230,000 casualties for the Italians and 165,000 for the Austrians.

July 1, 1915 - Russia creates a Central War Industries Committee to oversee production and address a severe shortage of artillery shells and rifles on the Front. Russian soldiers in the field without rifles can only get them from fellow soldiers after they are killed or wounded.

July 9, 1915 - In Africa, the German Southwest Africa colony (present day Namibia) is taken by the Allies following 11 months of fighting between the Germans and South African and Rhodesian troops loyal to the British.

July 13, 1915 - On the Eastern Front, the next phase of the combined Austro-German offensive against the Russians begins in northern Poland, with the Austro-Germans advancing toward Warsaw. The Russian Army now gets weaker by the day due to chronic supply shortages and declining morale. Once again, the Russians retreat, and also order a total civilian evacuation of Poland. This results in great hardship for the people as they leave their homes and head eastward, clogging the roads and hampering the movement of Russian troops.

August 1, 1915 - The Fokker Scourge begins over the Western Front as German pilots achieve air supremacy using the highly effective Fokker monoplane featuring a synchronized machine-gun that fires bullets through the spinning propeller. Although the technology was pioneered by French pilot Roland Garros, the Germans copied and improved the synchronized gun idea after capturing his plane. The Fokker Scourge will last nearly a year, until Allied aerial technology catches up.

August 5, 1915 - Warsaw is taken by Austro-Germans troops. This ends a century of Russian control of the city. After taking Warsaw, the Austro-Germans move on to capture Ivangorod, Kovno, Brest-Litovsk, Bialystok, Grodno, and Vilna. By the end of September, Russian troops are driven out of Poland and Galicia, back to the original lines from which they had begun the war in 1914. For the time being, the battered Russian Army has effectively been eliminated as an offensive threat on the Eastern Front, freeing the Germans to focus more effort on the Western Front.

August 6, 1915 - Hoping to break the stalemate at Gallipoli, British renew the offensive. An additional 20,000 troops are landed but their attack is hampered by poor communications and logistical problems. The Turks, led by Mustafa Kemal, respond by rushing in two divisions and the British offensive fails.

September 5, 1915 - Russian Czar Nicholas II takes personal command of the Russian Army, hoping to rally his faltering troops. Losses to the Czar's army from the Austro-German offensives in Galicia and Poland include over 1,400,000 casualties and 750,000 captured. Russia is also weakened economically by the loss of Poland's industrial and agricultural output. Additionally, the ongoing mass exodus of Russian troops and civilians from Poland, called the Great Retreat, spurs dangerous political and social unrest in Russia, undermining the rule of the Czar and his Imperial government.

September 6, 1915 - Bulgaria enters the war on Germany's side with an eye toward invading neighboring Serbia. Thus far in the war, Austria-Hungary has tried, but failed, three times to conquer Serbia in retaliation for the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Now, the Austrians, aided by Germany and Bulgaria, plan to try again. With the addition of Bulgaria, Germany now has three allies in the war including Austria-Hungary and Turkey. This alliance is called the Central Powers due to their geographic location, primarily in central Europe.

September 18, 1915 - The Germans announce an end to their first U-Boat campaign, begun in February, which had targeted ships around the British Isles. This comes in response to increasing protests from the United States following American civilian deaths at sea. The U-Boats are then sent by the Germans to wreak havoc in the Mediterranean Sea, away from American shipping lanes in the Atlantic.

September 25, 1915 - On the Western Front, the British use poison gas for the first time as they launch an attack against the German 6th Army in the Artois. Chlorine gas is released from over 5,000 cylinders, creating a poisonous cloud that drifts toward the Germans, opening a gap in their front line. The British advance and quickly seize their objective, the town of Loos, but then fail to capitalize on the four-mile-wide breach in the German lines. The Germans regroup and when the British resume the attack the next day they are mowed down in the hundreds by well-placed German machine-gunners. In all, the British suffer 50,000 casualties during the Loos offensive. British Army Commander John French is then sacked, replaced by Douglas Haig.

September 25, 1915 - The French 2nd Army in Champagne attacks the weakest part of the German lines, creating a six-mile-wide breach that is three miles deep. The German 3rd Army then rushes in reinforcements, regroups its defense lines and plugs the gap. Facing strong resistance, the French break off the attack.

September 26, 1915 - The French launch their third attempt to seize Vimy Ridge from the Germans in Artois, and this time they secure the ridge.

September 26-28, 1915 - In the Middle East, a British victory occurs at the Battle of Kut al-Amara in Mesopotamia as they defeat the Turks. The resounding victory spurs an ambitious move by the British to venture onward to quickly capture Baghdad. However, that attempt fails and the troops return to Kut-al-Amara and dig in.

October 6, 1915 - The invasion of Serbia begins as Austro-German troops attack from the north. Five days later, the Bulgarians attack from the east. The outnumbered Serbs have their poorly supplied troops stretched too thinly to defend both fronts. Belgrade then falls to the Germans and the Bulgarians capture Kumanova, severing the country's north-south rail line. This leaves the overwhelmed Serbian troops no option other than to retreat westward through the mountains into Albania.

December 5, 1915 - Hoping to overcome their earlier defeat at Kut al-Amara in Mesopotamia, Turkish troops lay siege to the town, surrounding the British garrison there, cutting them off completely.

December 19, 1915 - The Allies begin an orderly evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula. This comes after months of stalemate in which Turkish troops contained all breakthrough attempts while inflicting 250,000 casualties. The British Navy successfully evacuates 83,000 survivors by sea as the Turks watch without firing a shot, glad to see them leave.


British Land in Persian Gulf


German Defensive Positions


Praying Over Russian Wounded


Czar Nicholas at the Front

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  • &bull the type of products and the amount to be exported
  • &bull the price and the quantity of the goods
  • &bull the country the goods will be sent to
  • &bull information about where the products will be stored
  • &bull information about the company exporting the products.
  • &bull choosing the appropriate business form which is usually represented by the limited liability company
  • &bull registering the company with the Trade Registry in Italy, as required by the Company Law
  • &bull registering the company with the tax authorities and obtaining a VAT number in Italy
  • &bull registering the company with the Customs and applying for an EORI number for foreign trade purposes.

US Imports by Year for Top Five Countries

primeimages / Getty Images

Five countries make up almost half of all U.S. imports. They are China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Germany. The United States imported the most goods from Canada until 2007 when China replaced our neighbor to the north. In 2019, these five countries supplied 48% of the $2.5 trillion in U.S. imports of goods.

What makes these countries such successful exporters? They have a comparative advantage in at least one of three areas. Some are best at supplying low-cost goods. That's China, Canada, and Mexico. Germany provides high-quality items. Japan's strategy is to focus on specific products for targeted markets. They have adopted the most successful competitive advantage strategies that match each nation's strengths.


European Union

On August 21, 2020, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and then-EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan announced that the United States and the EU had agreed to a package of tariff reductions that will increase market access for hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. and EU exports. These tariff reductions would be the first negotiated bilateral reductions in duties in more than two decades.

Under the agreement, the EU will eliminate tariffs on imports of U.S. live and frozen lobster products. U.S. exports of these products to the EU were over $111 million in 2017. The EU will eliminate these tariffs on a Most Favored Nation (MFN) basis, retroactive to begin August 1, 2020. The EU tariffs will be eliminated for a period of five years, and the European Commission will seek to make the tariff changes permanent. The United States will reduce by 50% its tariff rates on certain products exported by the EU worth an average annual trade value of $160 million, including certain prepared meals, certain crystal glassware, surface preparations, propellant powders, cigarette lighters and lighter parts. The U.S. tariff reductions will also be made on an MFN basis and be retroactive to August 1, 2020.

This bilateral tariff agreement, which the United States and the EU plan formally to implement in the fall of 2020, was the culmination of negotiations that intensified following a January 2020 meeting in Davos, Switzerland, between President Trump and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. U.S.-EU discussions on possible tariff reductions and on the removal of non-tariff barriers to transatlantic trade began in earnest in July 2018, when President Trump met at the White House with Commission President von der Leyen’s predecessor, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

In 2019, at the direction of President Trump, the United States completed formal procedures necessary to launch negotiations on a trade agreement, as did the European Commission.

U.S. goods and services trade with the EU 27 totaled an estimated $1.1 trillion in 2019. Exports were $468 billion imports were $598 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade deficit with the EU 27 was $130 billion in 2019.

U.S. Goods trade (exports plus imports) with the EU 27 totaled $720 billion in 2019. Goods exports totaled $268 billion goods imports totaled $452 billion. The U.S. goods trade deficit with The EU 27 was $184 billion in 2019.

Trade in services with the EU 27 (exports and imports) totaled an estimated $346.2 billion in 2019. Services exports were $200 billion services imports were $146 billion. The U.S. services trade surplus with the EU 27 was $54 billion in 2019.

U.S. goods exports to the EU 27 in 2019 totaled $267.6 billion, up 6.2 percent ($15.7 billion) from 2018 and up 53 percent from 2009. U.S. exports to the EU 27 account for 16.3 percent of overall U.S. exports in 2019.

The top 5 U.S. export markets in the EU countries for 2018 were: United Kingdom ($66.2 billion), Germany ($57.7 billion), Netherlands ($49.4 billion), France ($36.3 billion), and Belgium ($31.4 billion).

U.S. goods imports from the EU 27 totaled $452.0 billion in 2019, up 6.0 percent ($25.8 billion) from 2018, and up 93 percent from 2009. U.S. imports from the EU 27 account for 18.1 percent of overall U.S. imports in 2019.

The top five U.S. import suppliers from the EU 27 in 2019 were: Germany ($127.5 billion), Ireland ($62.0 billion), France ($57.6 billion), Italy ($57.3 billion), and Netherlands ($29.7 billion).

The top import categories (2-digit HS) in 2019 were: pharmaceuticals ($77.0 billion), machinery ($75.6 billion), vehicles ($44.2 billion), optical and medical instruments ($30.1 billion), and special other (returns) ($27.4 billion).


Who were the largest major arms exporters in the last 5 years?

WASHINGTON — The United States was the largest exporter of major arms from 2015-2019, delivering 76 percent more materiel than runner-up Russia, according to a new study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute think tank.

The U.S. contributed about 35 percent of all the world’s arms exports during that five-year time period, partly supported by the increased demand for American advanced military aircraft in Europe, Australia, Japan and Taiwan, said Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher at SIPRI.

The study found that the U.S. provided major arms — defined by the think tank as air defense systems, armored vehicles, missiles and satellites, among other materiel — to 96 countries in those five years, with half of the weapons going to the Middle East.

From 2015-2019, Russia’s major arms exports decreased by 18 percent France’s increased by 72 percent, making it the third largest exporter and Germany’s increased by 17 percent, making it the fourth largest exporter.

Worldwide arms exports rose nearly 6 percent in 2015-2019 from 2010-2014, and increased 20 percent from since 2005-2009, SIPRI said.


European Union CE Marking and Standards

Prior to exporting, U.S. manufacturers have to consider certification for the EU market. Certification is about conformity assessment in order to declare compliance with EU regulatory requirements. For the majority of exported products, compliance is visibly testified by the manufacturer through the use of CE marking. Use of standards is part of the process.

Bearing in mind that testing and certification for the U.S. market are not sufficient for exporting to the EU, manufacturers will need to start from scratch in order to determine what it takes to comply with EU requirements. Since EU legislation harmonizes mandatory requirements for product safety throughout the European Union, a manufacturer only needs to go through the process once and can then export to all 28 EU member states (and beyond). With appropriate certification, goods travel freely within the borders of the Single Market.


The EU potato sector - statistics on production, prices and trade

The 52 million tonnes of potatoes harvested across the EU in 2018 was about one-third ( 37.3 %) less than in 2000.

Production of potatoes, including seed, 2018 - share of EU-28 harvested production (%)

This article describes the potato sector in the European Union. A range of agricultural data from a number of Eurostat agricultural statistics (farm structure survey, annual crop production statistics, agricultural prices and economic accounts for agriculture) are used, as well as trade and industrial production statistics, to depict the various stages in the process of bringing potatoes from the field to the market.

Potato production in the EU is highly concentrated

Potato production is mainly concentrated in seven Member States Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and the United Kingdom accounted for about three-quarters of the area planted (76.9 % in 2018) and of production (79.5 % in 2018).

Production: area, harvest and farms

Cultivated area of potatoes in 2018 almost half of that in 2000

Potatoes were cultivated on 1.7 million hectares (ha) in the EU-28 in 2018 (see Table 1). This corresponded to 1.6 % of all arable land in the EU. This share was much higher in the Netherlands (15.8 % of all arable land), Belgium (11.1 %) and in Malta (7.1 %). About three-quarters (76.9 %) of the EU’s cultivated area of potatoes in 2018 was concentrated in just seven Member States: these were Poland (17.8 %), Germany (14.9 %), France (11.8 %), Romania (9.9 %), the Netherlands (9.7 %), the United Kingdom (7.2 %) and Belgium (5.5 %). The area of potatoes in the EU has been in long-term decline. The cultivated area almost halved between 2000 and 2018 with, among the principal producer countries, particularly sharp reductions in Poland ( 76.0 %) and Romania (-37.1 %). Nevertheless there were some exceptions (see Figure 2), with increases in the area of potatoes planted in both France (particularly since 2015) and Belgium (particularly since 2009).

52 million tonnes of potatoes harvested across the EU in 2018, about one-third ( 37.3 %) less than in 2000

With a downward trend in the area of potatoes cultivated, harvested production in the EU has also been in decline, albeit with annual fluctuations that were also influenced by weather conditions. Between 2000 and 2018, the harvested production of potatoes in the EU declined by just over one-third (-37.3 %), with a particularly strong decline in Poland (see Figure 3). The harvested production of potatoes in the EU was 51.9 million tonnes in 2018. Germany was the largest producer of potatoes in the EU in 2018 (at 8.9 million tonnes, 17.2 % of the EU total), ahead of France (15.2 %), Poland (14.3 %) and the Netherlands (11.6 %).

Farms producing potatoes in EU are typically very small

Almost 1.5 million agricultural holdings in the EU grew potatoes in 2016, of which two-thirds were in Romania (40.4 %) and Poland (25.2 %). However, almost 90 % of farms growing potatoes in the EU did so on an area of less than 1 ha. Indeed, the average area of potatoes cultivated on farms in Poland was 0.8  ha and in Romania was 0.2 ha. So whilst numerous, these holdings with very small potato areas of less than 1 ha only accounted for 14.8 % of the overall cultivated area in the EU (see Figure 5). By contrast, there were some Member States where holdings growing potatoes did so on a relatively large scale: in Denmark the average area of potatoes was 26.1 ha in 2016, and in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom it was 16.5 ha. So whilst relatively few in number, these larger-scale potato farms accounted for a relatively high share of the EU’s potato production area. Only 2.2 % of EU farms growing potatoes did so on more than 10 ha in 2016, but these same farms accounted for a clear majority (60.5 %) of the EU’s total cultivated area of potatoes. Organic potato production remains a relatively small segment of the market in most Member States. Only 20 000 holdings produced potatoes under organic farming conditions, with just over one half of these located in either Poland (23.7 %), Austria (14.7 %) or Germany (14.0 %) (see Table 2). In Austria, however, farms producing organic potatoes accounted for one-fifth (20.4 %) of all farms producing potatoes.

Values and prices

Potatoes worth EUR 11 billion to EU farming

The value at basic prices (i.e. including subsidies, but excluding taxes on products) of the raw potatoes (including seed potatoes) produced across the EU in 2017 was EUR 11.3 billion (see Table 3 and Figure 6). This represented 2.7  % of the value of total EU agricultural output in 2017, a proportion that varied among Member States from 6.2 % in Belgium to 0.8 % in Hungary. Almost one half (48.1 %) of the value of potato production came from just three Member States: France (18.2 %), Germany (16.8 %) and the Netherlands (13.1 %).

Volatile prices, both on producer and consumer markets

Selling prices for potatoes fluctuated significantly over time and between countries, on both producer and consumer markets (see Table 4), in part reflecting the strong annual fluctuations in production (see Figure 3). There are also often differences in price development between the two markets for the same year and Member State,

Trade

Potatoes were traded mainly on the EU’s internal market: France, the Netherlands and Germany were the leading traders

Member States traded about 7 million tonnes of potatoes between themselves (Intra EU trade) in 2018, the market value of which was EUR 1.7 billion (0.05 % of all intra-EU exports). Standard table (main crop) potatoes accounted for two-thirds (65.5 %) of total intra-EU potato exports in value terms seed potatoes accounted for one quarter (25.2 %) of the total early potatoes accounted for 7.6 %, with starch potatoes making up the remaining 1.8 %. Three Member States accounted for two-thirds of intra-EU exports of potatoes in value terms: France (28.0 %), the Netherlands (23.3 %) and Germany (16.8 %). Whereas France and Germany were the main export traders in main crop potatoes (36.8 % and 21.7 % respectively of the intra-EU total in value terms), the Netherlands was alone responsible for more than one half (58.2 %) of the value of all seed potatoes traded within the EU and Cyprus (24.9 %) was the principal intra-EU trader of early potatoes.

EU imports of potatoes tended to be "early potatoes"

Compared to the volume and value of intra-EU trade, the EU imported few potatoes from non-EU countries: the EU imported 355 800 tonnes from abroad, to a value of EUR 127.9 million. Slightly more than three-quarters (78.7 %) of these imports were early potatoes: 280 000 tonnes (worth EUR 99.7 million) entered the European market, mainly from Egypt (61.3 %) and Israel (37.2 %).

The EU is a net exporter of seed and main crop potatoes and the Netherlands was the leading trader

The EU is a net exporter of potatoes. In 2018, it exported 1.1 million tonnes of potatoes with a value of EUR 495 million (0.03 % of the total value of extra-EU exports). These exports were mainly seed potatoes (71.6 % in terms of the total value of potato exports and 54.4  % in terms of volume) and crop potatoes (27.0 % in value and 44.0 % in volume). Exports of early and starch potatoes were almost negligible. Egypt and Algeria were the EU’s largest export markets for potatoes outside the EU (10.2 % and 10.0 % respectively of the volume and 13.9 % and 13.8 % respectively of the value), both exclusively for seed potatoes. Norway was the largest importer of main crop potatoes (10.1 % of the volume and 14.7 % of the value). Given the principal export markets, the vast majority of potato exports were transported by sea (78.7 % in quantity) rather than road (21.1 %). Among the Member States, the Netherlands was the leading exporter Ώ] to countries outside the EU, accounting for more than half of all extra-EU exports of potatoes, both in terms of value (58.5 %) and volume (54.7 %). To put this in some context, the next largest exporter was France, accounting for a little more than one-seventh of extra-EU potato exports (13.7 % in value terms and 13.8 % in volume terms).

Processing

Processed potatoes (mainly as frozen chips and crisps) were worth EUR 10 billion in 2017, or 1.5 % of the overall value of EU food industry output

Besides being consumed directly and traded as a raw commodity, potatoes are processed into four main types of product: frozen potatoes, dried potatoes, prepared or preserved potatoes, and potato starch (see Table 7). The overall value of EU processed potato production reached EUR 10.0 billion in 2017, or 1.5 % of the value of production of the whole European food industry. Frozen chips and crisps were the most significant products in terms of production value

The EU was a net exporter of processed potatoes it exported processed potatoes to the value of EUR 6.2 billion in 2017 and imported processed potatoes to the value of EUR 4.5 billion. Within the EU, potato processing was mainly based in six Member States: the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. For reasons of data confidentiality, precise data cannot be published.

Source data for tables and graphs

The EU potato sector tables and figures

Data sources

The statistical information presented in this publication is drawn from the Eurostat database, available at the Eurostat website.

Statistics on crop production

Statistics on crop products are obtained by sample surveys, supplemented by administrative data and estimates based on expert observations. The sources vary from one EU Member State to another because of national conditions and statistical practices. National statistical institutes or Ministries of Agriculture are responsible for data collection in accordance with EC Regulations. The finalised data sent to Eurostat are as harmonised as possible. Eurostat is responsible for establishing EU aggregates. The statistics collected on agricultural products cover more than 100 individual crop products. Information is collected for the area under cultivation (expressed in 1 000 hectares), the quantity harvested (expressed in 1 000 tonnes) and the yield (expressed in 100 kg per hectare). For some products, data at a national level may be supplemented by regional statistics at NUTS level 1 or level 2.

Statistics on the structure of agricultural holdings (FSS)

A comprehensive Farm structure survey (FSS) is carried out by EU Member States every 10 years (the full scope being the agricultural census) and intermediate sample surveys are carried out twice between these basic surveys. The statistical unit is the agricultural holding the EU Member States collect information from individual agricultural holdings, covering:

  • land use
  • livestock numbers
  • rural development (for example, activities other than agriculture)
  • management and farm labour input (including age, sex and relationship to the holder).

Survey data are aggregated to different geographic levels (countries, regions, and for basic surveys also districts) and arranged by size class, area status, legal status of holding, objective zone and farm type. In the FSS organic data has been collected since the 2000 Census.

Economic accounts for agriculture (EAA)

Data on EAA provide an insight into:

  • the economic viability of agriculture
  • agriculture’s contribution to each EU Member State’s wealth
  • the structure and composition of agricultural production and inputs
  • the remuneration of factors of production
  • relationships between prices and quantities of both inputs and outputs.

The output of agricultural activity includes output sold (including trade in agricultural goods and services between agricultural units), changes in stocks, output for own final use (own final consumption and own-account gross fixed capital formation), output produced for further processing by agricultural producers, as well as intra-unit consumption of livestock feed products. The output of the agricultural sector is made up of the sum of the output of agricultural products and of the goods and services produced in inseparable non-agricultural secondary activities animal and crop output are the main product categories of agricultural output.

Eurostat also collects annual agricultural prices (in principle net of VAT) to compare agricultural price levels between EU Member States and to study sales channels. Quarterly and annual price indices for agricultural products and the means of agricultural production, on the other hand, are used principally to analyse price developments and their effect on agricultural income. Selling prices are recorded at the first marketing stage (excluding transport). Agricultural price indices are obtained by a base-weighted Laspeyres calculation (2010 = 100), and are expressed in nominal terms or as deflated indices based on the use of an implicit consumer prices (HICP) deflator.

COMEXT database on EU trade

COMEXT is the Eurostat reference database for international trade. It provides access not only to both recent and historical data from the EU Member States but also to statistics of a significant number of third countries. International trade aggregated and detailed statistics disseminated from Eurostat website are compiled from COMEXT data according to a monthly process. Because COMEXT is updated on a daily basis, data published on the website may differ from data stored in COMEXT in case of recent revisions. EU data are compiled according to community guidelines and may, therefore, differ from national data published by Member States. Statistics on extra-EU trade are calculated as the sum of trade of each of the 28 Member States with countries outside the EU. In other words, the EU is considered as a single trading entity and trade flows are measured into and out of the area, but not within it. The importance of the EU’s internal market is underlined by the fact that the proportion of intra-EU trade in goods is higher than extra-EU trade in goods in most EU Member States with few exceptions. The variation in the proportion of total trade in goods accounted for by intra-EU trade reflects to some degree historical ties and geographical location.

PRODCOM, database on the production of manufactured goods

PRODCOM is the European Union (EU) survey providing statistics on the production of manufactured goods. The Prodcom survey covers the mining, quarrying and manufacturing sectors, in other words, NACE Rev. 2 Sections B and C. Prodcom statistics are based on a list of products called the Prodcom list which consists of more than 3 800 headings, and which is revised every year. In the list, products are detailed at an 8-digit level — only information at this detailed level can be found in the Prodcom database, as production data for different products cannot always be meaningfully aggregated. The purpose of Prodcom statistics is to report, for each product in the Prodcom list, how much production has been sold during the reference period. This means that Prodcom statistics relate to products (not to activities) and are therefore not strictly comparable with activity-based statistics such as structural business statistics. Sometimes the data for some products cannot be reported, for instance if an enterprise cannot report the volume in the required measurement unit. In these cases, either the national statistical office or Eurostat makes estimates so that complete EU totals can be published. In some cases the national statistical authority requests that the data for a particular product be kept confidential. This can happen, for instance, if there is only one producer in the country so that the published data refers directly to that producer. Eurostat is legally bound to respect such confidentiality, but may use the confidential amount in EU totals, as long as it is not revealed by doing so. If this is not possible, the EU total is rounded so that an approximate figure can be given without revealing the confidential data. The rounding base is also shown in order to indicate the range of possible true values of the total.


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