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Importing from France to Australia: Ultimate Guide + France’s Top Commodities


Importing from France

Australia has had a lengthy and positive economic relationship with France since the 1800s up until the present day. Trade and investment are substantial between the two countries, with France having exported nearly $1.25 billion worth of goods to Australia in 2019. Australia also exported around $1.3 billion worth of merchandise with France in the 2019-20 economic year, with approximately $445 million of that being coal.

If you are a business based in Australia looking to import products from France, this is the right article to read. Below, we’ll discuss all you need to know about importing from France to Australia including key statistics, top commodities, what documents you’ll need to prepare and how to ensure your shipment from our European partner flows smoothly.

Generally doing business with France

The first thing to know about France is that it is a member of the European Union (EU) and is therefore subject to regulations imposed by the EU. It is also a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and is the second-largest importer and exporter on the European continent right after Germany.

French business culture is all about courtesy and formality will be required in most meetings. Generally, French business partners will be interested in long-term relationships. Once you have a good supplier, partner or customer in France, you’ll need to keep in touch with them on a regular basis to ensure continued prosperity.

What the French market offers

Key Imports from France

During 2020, despite the harsh impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia imported around US$4.19 billion from France according to the U.N. COMTRADE database. Some of the key imports from our European partner include as follows.


This includes machinery such as nuclear reactors and boilers. It accounted for nearly US $639 million worth of imports from France in 2020.

Note that there are strict regulations when it comes to importing heavy machinery into Australia imposed by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. It is vital that your organisation is across these rules to ensure your goods are not seized and re-exported by customs authorities.

Importing from France to Australia: Ultimate Guide + France’s Top Commodities

Pharmaceutical products

These include products such as medicaments, vaccines, bandages, gauzes and other pharmaceutical goods. In 2020, imports to Australia from France of pharmaceutical products were around US $414 million.

The Australian Government has recently been in discussions with Valneva, a French-based vaccination company over the potential importation of a brand new COVID-19 vaccine. It uses a so-called ‘inactivated’ type of the virus that has been killed to create an immune response and has reportedly worked well. Results from its testing, according to University of Bristol professor Adam Finn, indicate that the vaccine is “on track to play an important role in overcoming the pandemic”.

Learn more about importing COVID-19 equipment here.

Importing from France to Australia: Ultimate Guide + France’s Top Commodities

Organic chemicals

Australia imports a great deal of organic chemicals from France, including hormones, provitamins, ketone and acyclic alcohols. In 2019, in fact, the primary export from France to Australia was hormones. In 2020, organic chemicals accounted for around US $406 million worth of imported goods.

Essential oils such as perfumes and cosmetics

The Australian economy adores French cosmetics and perfumes, with world-famous perfume brands such as Chloé, Chanel, Christian Dior and Estee Lauder highly popular amongst our population. These goods accounted for around US $316 million worth of imports from France in 2020.


Beverages such as wine, spirits, liqueurs and beer are next on the list as one of the top imports from France – and it’s not surprising why! Some of the most popular household names in Australia when it comes to alcoholic beverages are French. Think drinks like Cognac, Cointreau, Benedictine and Armagnac.

Australia imported around US $305 million worth of beverages from France in 2020. The majority of this (approximately US $234 million) was wine.

Importing from France to Australia: Ultimate Guide + France’s Top Commodities

Electrical and electronic equipment

Equipment such as electric heaters, electric motors, TV receivers, insulated wires & cables and radar apparatuses are all important imports from France into Australia. They accounted for around US $274 million worth of imports in 2020.

Medical and optical apparatuses

Optical, photo, technical, medical apparatus is also a major import into Australia from France. This includes products such as navigational instruments, orthopaedic goods, hearing aids, surveying instruments, cameras, oscilloscopes, optical fibre cables and more. This accounted for approximately US $234 million worth of imports in 2020.

Vehicles (except for railways and tramways)

French vehicles are another top import, including cars, tractors, motorcycles and military vehicles. Motor vehicle brands such as Citroen, Peugeot and Renault are well-known across the Australian economy.

Despite these brands suffering a significant drop in sales in 2020, vehicles accounted for US $216 million worth of imports in 2020.

Pet food

Pet food is also an import from France into Australia. One of our main imports here at ICE include pet food manufactured for Royal Canin.

Shipping methods to and from France

There are two primary ways you can transport products to (or receive product from) France: air freight or sea freight.

Ocean Freight

A shipping carrier will transport your goods from Australia to France (or vice versa) usually on a large container vessel. Ocean freight services typically cater for both Full Container Load (FCL) or Less than Container Load (LCL) shipments and can also offer specialised services. Ocean freight carriers also offer a contracted service, with bulk space allocations with high volumes for freight.

Some of the most important ports in France include:

  • Fos-Sur-Mer port servicing Marseille – one of France’s primary ocean ports, with a traffic of around 88 million tonnes.
  • Port of Le Havre – this is the second largest commercial port in the whole of France when considering tonnage and stretches to around 96 acres.

General transit times

  • Fos Sur Mur to Sydney – 45 days via Singapore
  • Fos-Sur-Mer port to Sydney – 40 days via Port Kelang

The majority of vessels will tranship via Port Kelang or Singapore so you should allow additional days for delays at transhipment.

Air freight

There is also a range of air freight options you can choose to transport your goods safely and quickly to and from France. In 2021, French carrier CMA CGM even announced that they were going to branch into air freight operations with four Airbus A330-200Fs.

Some of the primary airports in France include:

  • Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle
  • Paris-Orly
  • Toulouse-Blagnac
  • Lyon-Saint-Exupéry
  • Marseille-Provence
  • Bâle-Mulhouse

General transit times

Most transit times will take at least two days and this period is extended currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Getting the documentation correct

One of the most important aspects of shipping to and from France is the documentation involved. A failure to have all the correct documentation in order may cause delays and extra unexpected costs for your business.

The general shipping documents you need, include:

  • Commercial invoice– this is one of the most important documents in shipping, as it summarises who is buying what, and who from, and also the terms agreed between an Australian company and a French supplier (or vice versa).
  • Packing Declaration – this isonly needed for sea shipments. It lists the type of material used to pack goods.
  • Packing list – this will also outline several details of your goods such as how the shipment is packed. Whilst not compulsory, a packing list assists if your goods are held for inspection and certain items need to be unpacked.

You can download useful documents for your shipment from this page.

A free trade agreement with France?

There is no direct free trade agreement between France and Australia. Rather, a discussion over a free trade agreement between Australia and Europe has been in discussion since 2018. As of 2021, negotiations were paused and are not expected to continue until February 2022.

The relationship between France and Australia did hit some rocky roads in September 2021. Australia cancelled a deal with France to construct a submarine fleet, concluding a deal instead with U.S. and Britain.

Despite this, there is a great potential market in the EU that Australia could benefit from should a trade agreement be concluded. Agriculture, telecommunications financial and professional services are just some of these markets.

Ask a freight forwarder

The process of importing goods from France into Australia is complicated. There is a vast range of factors to consider, ranging from biosecurity and customs to complex documentation.

ICE has a vast global network of agents across the globe and can assist in your shipment to and from France. With 30 years of experience of local knowledge and direct contact with your suppliers, we’re well prepared to meet all your freight forwarding requirements.

Please get in touch with one of our freight forwarders today to discuss your next shipment.

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