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Import / export with France: what you need to know

If you are a freight forwarder or foreign company doing business with France, do you know what specific customs regulatory requirements and transport regulations exist in France?

All of the countries of the European Union apply the same import / export regulations, and some enforce them more strictly than others. A subtle detail that needs to be kept in mind however: some member states like France apply specific national customs regulations – the “French touch” to be deciphered by an expert in the international shipping industry.

France and export of “dual use goods”

Export is generally highly encouraged by institutions in France. With one notable exception: goods known as dual use, which may have both a civil and military use. Kevlar cables for example, or pipework that could be used in a nuclear facility in Iran.

While the export of such goods is not prohibited, they are governed by the European Community Code for the Control of Exports. And French customs behave very vigilantly with respect to the risks associated with exporting these critical technologies. The customs agent could be personally liable if his or her level of vigilance were found to be deficient. What do you need to do if you have to ship this type of product from France to a country at war or under sanctions, or even to a country nearby a zone in crisis?

After verifying whether your products are impacted by such circumstances, you’ll need to verify the conditions required to obtain an export licence, and determine the tariff nomenclature for customs operations.

If you need to ship “dual use” goods, Mathez Freight Forwarding will support you to build solid and lasting solutions for your exports/imports.

Imports and European compliance

For some products, any producer or importer targeting the French or European market transiting through France should provide French customs with a certificate of European compliance as well as laboratory test results. Some products also need to display the specific “EC” marking. Electrical products, toys, and safety equipment are those most primarily concerned by this legislation.

To introduce your products onto French and European markets, you will need an official European importer or an “Importer Of Record” (IOR). Your “Importer of Record” should be registered in all the countries in Europe in which you wish to do business.

Mathez Freight Forwarding will help find your “Importer Of Record” through its specialized company Easytax.fr.

Counterfeit and illegal products: the importer is solely responsible

The importer of a counterfeit product is responsible in the eyes of customs authorities. The importer may take action against the vendor located outside Europe, but in the meantime, the customs authority considers that it is the importer which is at fault. The same rule applies to illegal products : the importer bears all responsibility.

French customs are inflexible regarding counterfeit products. Not only do they constitute a failure to earn throughout all the links in the value chain, in particular for the luxury sector, what’s more, copies may present hazards. Indeed, most counterfeit products do not comply with European standards.

E-commerce & customs controls

E-commerce allows more products to cross borders with fewer controls. In fact, these days distribution circuits have been reduced, large import flows bring in smaller units with increased frequency, considerably complicating the work of customs enforcement officials. Some imported products, particularly via European postal services, escape customs controls. With e-commerce, it has become more difficult to seize counterfeits. Vendors more easily escape entry duties, quality controls (quality certification) and the requirement to have an IOR. The solution would come in the form of legislation adapted to address these new realities, but the European Union has been slow to act with respect to this new form of commerce.

Mathez Freight Forwarding is clearly positioned to support e-commerce – being the IOR for a large BtoB industrial group represents a major business opportunity. Nevertheless, when we are contacted by a producer outside the EU who wishes to import to France, we always investigate the company – its reputation, size of the company, its history – because in the event of trouble, we are on the front line. Our clients are king, but not if they want to import what shouldn’t be imported!

Specific challenges for the freight forwarding market

The organization of the French and European freight forwarding market presents some specific issues in the eyes of Asian, African, and American agents.

  • 80% of air freight in Europe is also transported by truck to or from an airport.
  • Safety measures are very strict in air freight: 100% of cargo is monitored (X-ray, explosives detection squads, and other necessary measures).
  • Visit our FAQs on air freight and maritime transport and find out more about major seaports and airports in France, combined transport, restitution of empty containers, etc.
Daniel Jatoonah

Do you have a question about importing to or exporting from France? We share advice and provide support to our partner agents in order to ensure perfect security of their movement of goods to or from France.

Daniel Jatoonah, Mathez Freight Forwarding
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