Area: 551,670 sq. km. (220,668 sq. mi.); largest west European country, about four-fifths the size of Texas.
Cities: Capital--Paris. Major cities--Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nice, Rennes, Lille, Bordeaux.
Population (January 1, 2008 est.): 63,753,000 (including overseas territories), 61,875,000 (metropolitan).
Annual growth rate (2007 est.): 1.9%.
Ethnic groups: Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Sub-Saharan African, Indochinese, and Basque minorities.
Religion: Roman Catholic 85% (est.), Muslim 10% (est.), Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%.
Education: Years compulsory--10. Literacy--99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2007)--4/1,000.
Work force (2007, third quarter): 27.929 million: Services--74.7%; industry and commerce--22.0%; agriculture--3.2%.
Constitution: September 28, 1958.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state); prime minister (head of government). Legislative--bicameral Parliament (577-member National Assembly, 319-member Senate). Judicial--Court of Cassation (civil and criminal law), Council of State (administrative court), Constitutional Council (constitutional law).
Subdivisions: 22 administrative regions containing 96 departments (metropolitan France). Four overseas departments (Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, and Reunion); five overseas territories (New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna Islands, and French Southern and Antarctic Territories); and two special status territories (Mayotte and St. Pierre and Miquelon). The government is considering measures to abolish the departmental system.
Political parties: Union for a Popular Majority (UMP--a synthesis of center-right Gaullist/nationalist and free-market parties); Socialist Party; New Center (former UDF centrists now affiliated with the UMP; Modern Democracy (former UDF centrists loyal to new MoDem President Francois Bayrou); Communist Party; extreme right National Front; Greens; various minor parties.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (2006): $2.252 trillion.
Avg. annual growth rate (2007): 1.8%, compared with 2.25% in 2006.
Per capita GDP at PPP (2006): $33,800.
Agriculture: Products--grains (wheat, barley, corn); wines and spirits; dairy products; sugar beets; oilseeds; meat and poultry; fruits and vegetables.
Industry: Types--aircraft, electronics, transportation, textiles, clothing, food processing, chemicals, machinery, steel.
Trade (est.): Exports (first 11 months of 2007)--$503.3 billion (f.o.b.): automobiles, aircraft and aircraft components, pharmaceuticals, automobile equipment, pharmaceuticals, automobile equipment, iron and steel products, refined petroleum products, cosmetics, organic chemicals, electronic components, wine and champagne. Imports (first 11 months of 2007)--$551.2 billion (f.o.b.): oil and natural gas, automobiles, aircraft and aircraft components, refined petroleum products, automobile equipment, pharmaceuticals, iron and steel products, and computers/computer-related products. Major trading partners--EU and U.S.
Exchange rate: U.S. $1=0.7964 in 2006, and 0.7297 in 2007.
Since prehistoric times, France has been a crossroads of trade, travel, and invasion. Three basic European ethnic stocks--Celtic, Latin, and Teutonic (Frankish)--have blended over the centuries to make up its present population. France's birth rate was among the highest in Europe from 1945 until the late 1960s. Since then, its birth rate has fallen but remains higher than that of most other west European countries. Traditionally, France has had a high level of immigration. More than 1 million Muslims immigrated in the 1960s and early 1970s from North Africa, especially Algeria. About 85% of the population is Roman Catholic, 10% Muslim, less than 2% Protestant, and about 1% Jewish. However, the government does not keep statistics on religious affiliation, and according to a January 2007 poll, 51% of respondents describe themselves as Catholic, and another 31% describe themselves as having no religious affiliation. In 2004, there were over 6 million Muslims, largely of North African descent, living in France. France is home to both the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe.
Education is free, beginning at age 2, and mandatory between ages 6 and 16. The public education system is highly centralized. Private education is primarily Roman Catholic. Higher education in France began with the founding of the University of Paris in 1150. It now consists of 91 public universities and 175 professional schools, including the post-graduate Grandes Ecoles. Private, college-level institutions focusing on business and management with curriculums structured on the American system of credits and semesters have been growing in recent years.
The French language derives from the vernacular Latin spoken by the Romans in Gaul, although it includes many Celtic and Germanic words. Historically, French has been used as the international language of diplomacy and commerce. Today it remains one of six official languages at the United Nations and has been a unifying factor in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Caribbean.
France was one of the earliest countries to progress from feudalism to the nation-state. Its monarchs surrounded themselves with capable ministers, and French armies were among the most innovative, disciplined, and professional of their day. During the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715), France was the dominant power in Europe. But overly ambitious projects and military campaigns of Louis and his successors led to chronic financial problems in the 18th Century. Deteriorating economic conditions and popular resentment against the complicated system of privileges granted the nobility and clerics were among the principal causes of the French Revolution (1789-94). Although the revolutionaries advocated republican and egalitarian principles of government, France reverted to forms of absolute rule or constitutional monarchy four times--the Empire of Napoleon, the Restoration of Louis XVIII, the reign of Louis-Philippe, and the Second Empire of Napoleon III. After the Franco-Prussian War (1870), the Third Republic was established and lasted until the military defeat of 1940.
World War I (1914-18) brought great losses of troops and materiel. In the 1920s, France established an elaborate system of border defenses (the Maginot Line) and alliances to offset resurgent German strength. France was defeated early in World War II, however, and was occupied in June 1940. That July, the country was divided into two: one section being ruled directly by the Germans, and a second controlled by the French ("Vichy" France) and which the Germans did not occupy. German and Italian forces occupied all of France, including the "Vichy" zone, following the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942. The "Vichy" government largely acquiesced to German plans, namely in the plunder of French resources and the forceful deportations of tens of thousands of French Jews living in France to concentration camps across Europe, and was even more completely under German control following the German military occupation of November 1942. Economically, a full one-half of France's public sector revenue was appropriated by Germany. After 4 years of occupation and strife in France, Allied forces liberated the country in 1944.
France emerged from World War II to face a series of new problems. After a short period of provisional government initially led by Gen. Charles de Gaulle, the Fourth Republic was set up by a new constitution and established as a parliamentary form of government controlled by a series of coalitions. French military involvement in both Indochina and Algeria combined with the mixed nature of the coalitions and a consequent lack of agreement caused successive cabinet crises and changes of government.
Finally, on May 13, 1958, the government structure collapsed as a result of the tremendous opposing pressures generated by four years of war with Algeria. A threatened coup led the Parliament to call on General de Gaulle to head the government and prevent civil war. Marking the beginning of the Fifth Republic, he became prime minister in June 1958 and was elected president in December of that year. The Algerian conflict also spurred decades of increased immigration from the Maghreb states, changing the composition of French society.
Seven years later, for the first time in the 20th Century, the people of France went to the polls to elect a president by direct ballot. De Gaulle won re-election with a 55% share of the vote, defeating Francois Mitterrand. In April 1969, President de Gaulle's government conducted a national referendum on the creation of 21 regions with limited political powers. The government's proposals were defeated, and de Gaulle subsequently resigned. Succeeding him as president of France have been Gaullist Georges Pompidou (1969-74), Independent Republican Valery Giscard d'Estaing (1974-81), Socialist Francois Mitterrand (1981-95), neo-Gaullist Jacques Chirac (1995-2007), and center-right Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-present).
While France continues to revere its rich history and independence, French leaders are increasingly tying the future of France to the continued development of the European Union (EU). France was integral in establishing the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and was among the EU's six founding states. During his tenure, President Mitterrand stressed the importance of European integration and advocated the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty on European economic and political union, which France's electorate narrowly approved in September 1992. The center of domestic attention soon shifted, however, to the economic reform and belt-tightening measures required for France to meet the criteria for Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) laid out by the Maastricht Treaty.
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S., France has played a central role in the war on terrorism. French forces participate in Operation Enduring Freedom and in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan. France did not, however, join the coalition that liberated Iraq in 2003. In October and November 2005, three weeks of violent unrest in the largely immigrant suburbs focused French attention further on their minority communities. Also in 2005 French voters disapproved the EU constitution in a national referendum. In the spring of 2006, students protested widely over restrictive employment legislation.
In May 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy was elected as France's sixth president under the Fifth Republic, signaling French approval of widespread economic and social reforms, as well as closer cooperation with the United States.
The constitution of the Fifth Republic was approved by public referendum on September 28, 1958. It greatly strengthened the powers of the executive in relation to those of Parliament. Under this constitution, presidents were elected directly for a 7-year term since 1958. Beginning in 2002, the presidential term of office was reduced to 5 years. The president names the prime minister, presides over the cabinet, commands the armed forces, and concludes treaties. Traditionally, presidents under the Fifth Republic have tended to leave day-to-day policy-making to the Prime Minister and government; the five-year term of office is expected to make presidents more accountable for the results of domestic policies. Sarkozy, however, has been a hands-on manager and policymaker.
The president can submit questions to a national referendum and can dissolve the National Assembly. In certain emergency situations, with the approval of parliament, the president may assume dictatorial powers and rule by decree. The main components of France's executive branch are the president, the prime minister and government, and the permanent bureaucracies of the many ministries. Led by a prime minister, who is the head of government, the cabinet is composed of a varying number of ministers, ministers-delegate, and secretaries of state. Parliament meets for one 9-month session each year. Under special circumstances the president can call an additional session.
Under the Constitution, the legislative branch has few checks on executive power; nevertheless, the National Assembly can still cause a government to fall if an absolute majority of the total Assembly membership votes to censure. The Parliament is bicameral with a National Assembly and a Senate. The National Assembly is the principal legislative body. Its deputies are directly elected to 5-year terms, and all seats are voted on in each election. Senators are chosen by an electoral college and, under new rules passed in 2003 to shorten the term, serve for six years, with one-half of the Senate being renewed every three years. (As a transitional measure in 2004, 62 Senators were elected to 9-year terms, while 61 were elected to 6-year terms; subsequently, all terms will be six years.) The Senate's legislative powers are limited; the National Assembly has the last word in the event of a disagreement between the two houses. The government has a strong influence in shaping the agenda of Parliament. The government also can declare a bill to be a question of confidence, thereby linking its continued existence to the passage of the legislative text; unless a motion of censure is introduced and voted, the text is considered adopted without a vote.
A distinctive feature of the French judicial system is that the Constitutional Council protects basic rights when they might be potentially violated by new laws and the Council of State protects basic rights when they might be violated by actions of the state. The Constitutional Council examines legislation and decides whether it conforms to the constitution. Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, it considers only legislation that is referred to it by Parliament, the prime minister, or the president. Moreover, it considers legislation before it is promulgated. The Council of State has a separate function from the Constitutional Council and provides recourse to individual citizens who have claims against the administration. The Ordinary Courts--including specialized bodies such as the police court, the criminal court, the correctional tribunal, the commercial court, and the industrial court--settle disputes that arise between citizens, as well as disputes that arise between citizens and corporations. The Court of Appeals reviews cases judged by the Ordinary Courts.
Traditionally, decision-making in France has been highly centralized, with each of France's departments headed by a prefect appointed by the central government. In 1982, the national government passed legislation to decentralize authority by giving a wide range of administrative and fiscal powers to local elected officials. In March 1986, regional councils were directly elected for the first time, and the process of decentralization continues, albeit at a slow pace.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Francois Fillon
Foreign Minister--Bernard Kouchner
Ambassador to the United States--Pierre Vimont
Ambassador to the United Nations--Jean-Marc Rochereau de la Sabliere
France maintains its embassy in the U.S. at 4101 Reservoir Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20007 (tel. 202-944-6000); it is its largest diplomatic mission in the world.
Since his inauguration in May 2007 as France's sixth president under the Fifth Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy focused his first months in office on improving the performance of France's economy through liberalization of labor markets, higher education and taxes. In the April 22, 2007 first round of presidential elections, Sarkozy, the leader of the center-right, union for a popular Movement (UMP) party, placed first; Socialist candidate Segolene Royal placed second; centrist Francois Bayrou placed third; and extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen placed fourth out of a field of 12 candidates. Sarkozy prevailed in the May 6, 2007 second round, defeating Royal by a 53.06% to 46.94% margin. Royal's loss marked the third straight defeat for the Socialist candidate in presidential elections.
President Sarkozy assumed office on May 16, 2007, the last day of Jacques Chirac's official term. Sarkozy named Francois Fillon Prime Minister. Jean-Louis Borloo, the second-highest ranking figure in the government, presides over an expanded Ministry of Environment, now called the Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Planning. Legislative elections held on June 10 and 17, 2007 gave the UMP a large parliamentary majority. Other key ministers include: Michele Alliot-Marie, Interior; Bernard Kouchner, Foreign Affairs; Christine Lagarde, Economy; Brice Hortefeux, Immigration; Rachida Dati, Justice; and Herve Morin, Defense.
In electing Nicolas Sarkozy, French voters endorsed the wide-ranging program of reforms--including market-oriented social and economic reforms--that were the focal point of Sarkozy's campaign, implicitly giving him the green light to try and implement these reforms quickly, and allowing a way forward for overcoming France's 2005 rejection of the EU constitutional treaty. By embracing a figure long tagged as "pro-American," French voters also expressed their desire to renew trust in the U.S.-France relationship. During the campaign Sarkozy often ended his stump speeches--evoking Martin Luther King--by calling for a "French dream" of social equality, social mobility, and equal opportunity; and his first speech as President-elect assured his "American friends" that they could rely on France's friendship.
Since taking office, President Sarkozy has worked on a series of reforms to address mounting pressure for short- and long-term restructuring, including reduced government spending, flexibility in the implementation of the 35-hour work week, more labor-market flexibility, less taxation, and further privatization and liberalization of the business sector. French and EU analysts stress that longer-term measures must focus on reducing the future burden of ballooning public pension and health care budgets, as well as reducing labor-related taxes.
With a GDP of approximately $2 trillion, France is the sixth-largest economy. It has substantial agricultural resources, a large industrial base, and a highly skilled work force. A dynamic services sector accounts for an increasingly large share of economic activity and is responsible for nearly all job creation in recent years. Real GDP increased 2.2% in 2006. According to initial projections, 2007 GDP growth will hit 1.9%,
Government economic policy aims to promote investment and domestic growth in a stable fiscal and monetary environment. Creating jobs and reducing the high unemployment rate through recovery-supportive policy has been a top priority. The unemployment rate in metropolitan France slipped to 7.9% in the third quarter of 2007 from 8.1% in the second quarter of 2007 when the government took office, and from 8.9% in the third quarter of 2006. France joined 10 other European Union countries in adopting the euro as its currency in January 1999. Since then, monetary policy has been set by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. On January 1, 2002, France, along with the other countries of the euro zone, dropped its national currency in favor of euro bills and coins.
Despite significant reform and privatization over the past 15 years, the government continues to control a large share of economic activity: Government spending, at 53.5% of GDP in 2006, is among the highest in the G-7. Regulation of labor and product markets is pervasive. The government continues to own shares in corporations in a range of sectors, including banking, energy production and distribution, automobiles, transportation, and telecommunications.
Legislation passed in 1998 shortened the legal work week from 39 to 35 hours for most employees effective January 1, 2000. Recent assessments of the impact of work week reduction on growth and jobs have generally concluded that the goal of job creation was not met. The former administration introduced increasing flexibility into the law. Under President Nicolas Sarkozy's impetus, overtime work is exempted from income taxes and payroll taxes as of October 1, 2007, a move to encourage work and to increase work time. The business community welcomed government efforts to change the 35-hour work week, but has complained that measures are difficult to implement.
Membership in France's labor unions accounts for approximately 5% of the private sector work force and is concentrated in the manufacturing, transportation, and heavy industry sectors. Most unions are affiliated with one of the competing national federations, the largest and most powerful of which are the communist-dominated General Labor Confederation (CGT), the Workers' Force (FO), and the French Democratic Confederation of Labor (CFDT).
France has been very successful in developing dynamic telecommunications, aerospace, and weapons sectors. With virtually no domestic oil production, France has relied heavily on the development of nuclear power, which now accounts for about 80% of the country's electricity production.
France is the second-largest trading nation in Western Europe (after Germany). France ran a record-setting $48 billion deficit for the 12 months ending in November 2007. Total trade for 2006 amounted to $1,010.7 billion, over 45% of GDP, 75.0% of which was with EU-24 countries. In 2006, U.S.-France trade in goods and services totaled $91.6 billion. U.S. industrial chemicals, aircraft and engines, electronic components, telecommunications, computer software, computers and peripherals, analytical and scientific instrumentation, medical instruments and supplies, broadcasting equipment, and programming and franchising are particularly attractive to French importers. Total French trade of goods and services was $1,118 billion in 2006.
Principal French exports to the United States are aircraft and engines, beverages, electrical equipment, chemicals, cosmetics, and luxury products. France is the eighth-largest trading partner of the United States.
France is the European Union's leading agricultural producer, accounting for about one-third of all agricultural land within the EU. Northern France is characterized by large wheat farms. Dairy products, pork, poultry, and apple production are concentrated in the western region. Beef production is located in central France, while the production of fruits, vegetables, and wine ranges from central to southern France. France is a large producer of many agricultural products and is expanding its forestry and fishery industries. The implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Uruguay Round of the GATT Agreement resulted in reforms in the agricultural sector of the economy. Continued revision of the CAP and reforms agreed under the Doha round of World Trade Organization (WTO) will further change French agriculture. France remains Europe's strongest opponent of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and often assumes an agricultural position at the EU Council to promote this policy.
France is the world's second-largest agricultural producer, after the United States. However, the destination of 70% of its exports is other EU member states. Wheat, beef, pork, poultry, and dairy products are the principal exports. The United States, although the second-largest exporter to France, faces stiff competition from domestic production, other EU member states, and third countries. U.S. agricultural exports to France, totaling $464 million in 2003, consist primarily of soybeans and products, feeds and fodders, seafood, and consumer oriented products, especially snack foods and nuts. French agricultural exports to the United States are mainly cheese, processed products, and wine. They amount to about $3.327 billion (2006) annually.
France plays an influential global role as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, NATO, the G-8, the EU, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the WTO, la Francophonie and other multilateral institutions. Among NATO members, France is second only to the United States in terms of troops deployed abroad. The French will take over the rotating EU presidency from July-December 2008 and plan to focus on immigration, energy, the environment, and European defense during their term.
A charter member of the United Nations, France is a member of most of its specialized and related agencies. France is also America's oldest ally; French military intervention was instrumental in helping Britain's American colonies establish independence. Because many battles in which the United States was involved during World War I and World War II took place in France, more American soldiers have been killed on French soil than on that of any other foreign country.
France is a leader in Western Europe because of its size, location, and large economy, membership in European organizations, strong military posture, and energetic diplomacy. France generally has worked to strengthen the global economic and political influence of the EU and its role in common European defense. It views Franco-German cooperation and the development of a European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) with other EU members, as the foundation of efforts to enhance European security.
France supports Quartet (U.S.-EU-Russia-UN) efforts to implement the Middle East roadmap, which envisions establishment of a Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel. Recognizing the need for a comprehensive peace agreement, France supports the involvement of all Arab parties and Israel in a multilateral peace process.
Since 2003, France has supported four UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on Iraq, including UNSCR 1546, which laid out a timetable for Iraq's political transition and reaffirmed UNSC authorization for a Multinational Force in Iraq, at the invitation of the Iraqi government, to stabilize the country. France contributed to the 230 million euro EU contribution to Iraq reconstruction in 2003. After the Iraqi Interim Government took power, France agreed to substantial debt relief and offered police training to Iraqi security forces. In 2006, France and the U.S. collaborated closely to create a consensus in the UN to adopt UNSCR 1696 demanding action from Iran to end its enrichment-related and preprocessing activities. France has actively and repeatedly publicly stressed the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
France continues to play an important role in Africa, especially in its former colonies, through aid programs, commercial activities, military agreements, and cultural impact. In those former colonies where the French presence remains important, France has supported political, military, and social stability. France maintains permanent military bases in Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, and Senegal, and has maintained a long-term military presence in Chad. An attack on French forces in Cote d'Ivoire in 2004 led to the departure of thousands of French nationals from that country. France responded to the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire by dispatching Operation Unicorn, which has worked with UN forces to help stabilize Cote d'Ivoire. France has also deployed forces to Togo (in support of Operation Unicorn in Cote d'Ivoire) and to the Central African Republic, where French forces have assisted government forces in deterring rebel elements. France participated with EU partners in an international military operation (EUFOR) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006, which played an important presence during in elections that year in the D.R.C. France was instrumental in organizing the June 2007 ministerial conference on Darfur and has taken the lead on the UN peacekeeping mission for Chad and the C.A.R.
France has extensive political and commercial relations with Asian countries, including China, Japan, and Southeast Asia as well as an increasing presence in regional fora. France is seeking to broaden its commercial presence in China and will pose a competitive challenge to U.S. business, particularly in aerospace, high-tech, and luxury markets. In Southeast Asia, France was an architect of the 1991 Paris Accords, which ended the conflict in Cambodia.
French military doctrine is based on the concepts of national independence, nuclear deterrence, and military sufficiency. France is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and has worked actively with Allies to adapt NATO, internally and externally, to the post-Cold War environment. However, in 1966, the French withdrew from NATO's military bodies while remaining full participants in the alliance's political councils. In December 1995, France announced that it would increase its participation in NATO's military wing, including the Military Committee. President Sarkozy has publicly expressed support for the principle of French reintegration into NATO. France is currently preparing a defense white paper that will review France's security requirements. France remains a firm supporter of the OSCE and other efforts at cooperation.
Outside of NATO, France has actively and heavily participated in a variety of peacekeeping/coalition efforts in Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans, often taking the lead in these operations. France has undertaken a major restructuring to develop a professional military that will be smaller, more rapidly deployable and better tailored for operations outside of mainland France. Key elements of the restructuring include reducing personnel, bases, and headquarters and rationalizing equipment and the armament industry. French active-duty military in June 2007 numbered about 350,000 (including Gendarmes), of which nearly 39,900 were deployed outside of French territory. France completed the move to all-professional armed forces when conscription ended on December 31, 2002.
France places a high priority on arms control and non-proliferation. After conducting a final series of six nuclear tests, the French signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996. France has implemented a moratorium on the production, export, and use of anti-personnel landmines and supports negotiations leading toward a universal ban. France is an active participant in the major supplier regimes designed to restrict transfer of technologies that could lead to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction: the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group (for chemical and biological weapons), the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the Missile Technology Control Regime. France participates actively in the Proliferation Security Initiative, and is engaged with the U.S., both bilaterally and at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), to curb nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) proliferation from the D.P.R.K., Iran, Libya, and elsewhere. France has joined with the U.S., Germany, and the other three permanent members of the UN Security Council to offer a package of incentives and disincentives to Iran to halt its uranium enrichment activities. France has also signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. France maintains a color-coded security system, similar to that of the U.S., consisting of yellow, orange, red and scarlet threat levels.
Relations between the United States and France are active and friendly. Mutual visits by high-level officials are conducted frequently. Bilateral contact at the cabinet level has traditionally been active. France and the United States share common values and have parallel policies on most political, economic, and security issues. Differences are discussed frankly and have not generally been allowed to impair the pattern of close cooperation that characterizes relations between the two countries.
France is one of NATO's top five troop contributors. The French support NATO modernization efforts and are leading contributors to the NATO Response Force (NRF). France is keen to build European defense capabilities, including through the development of EU battle-group sized force packages and joint European military production initiatives. President Sarkozy supports development of a European defense that would complement, not compete with, NATO, which remains at the core of transatlantic security. During his December 2007 visit to Kabul, the President underscored French commitment to complete NATO's mission in Afghanistan, where some 1,900 French troops serve.
France is a close partner with the U.S. in the war on terror. It cooperates with the U.S. to monitor and disrupt terrorist groups and has processed numerous U.S. requests for information under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. French security and intelligence services have rounded up hundreds of extremists in the past year. The French judiciary in December 2007 tried and convicted five French former Guantanamo detainees on terrorism charges. France is a strong partner in multiple non-proliferation fora and is a key participant in the Proliferation Security Initiative. Through the "EU3" (France, the U.K., and Germany), France is working to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
France opposed the use of force in Iraq in March 2003 and did not join the U.S.-led coalition that liberated the country from the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein. Despite differences over Iraq, the U.S. and France continue to cooperate closely on many issues, most notably the global war on terrorism, efforts to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and on regional problems, including in Africa, Lebanon, and Kosovo. On Iraq, the French agreed to generous debt relief for Iraq in Paris Club negotiations and have accepted the establishment of a NATO training mission there.
In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, France seeks robust U.S. engagement in the peace process. France is working to contain the Hamas-led challenge to the Palestinian Authority. President Sarkozy, like his predecessor, President Chirac, is committed to keeping France in supportive relations with Israel. France hosted a donors conference for Palestinians in December 2007.
The U.S. and France have worked closely to support a sovereign and independent Lebanon, free of Syrian domination. The U.S. and France co-sponsored in September 2004 UNSCR 1559, which called for full withdrawal of Syrian forces, a free and fair electoral process, and disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. In the wake of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005, the U.S. and France reiterated calls for a full, immediate withdrawal of all Syrian troops and security services from Lebanon. France also co-sponsored UNSCR 1701 and was one of the leading countries in Europe working to end hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 by committing 2,000 troops to UNIFIL-plus. Strong French backing led to adoption of UNSCR 1757 establishing a Special Tribunal for Lebanon to prosecute the perpetrators of the Hariri assassination and other killings of critics of Syria's interference in Lebanon. Foreign Minister Kouchner is working hard to help competing Lebanese political factions agree to a framework for governing the country in accordance with the country's constitution and free from external interference. France also participates in the U.S. Broader Middle East and North Africa initiative.
Trade and investment between the U.S. and France are strong. On average, over 1 billion dollars in commercial transactions take place between France and the U.S. every day, with the U.S. being France's sixth-ranked supplier and its sixth-largest customer. France ranks as the United States' eighth trading partner for total goods (imports and exports). There are approximately 2,300 French subsidiaries in the U.S. that provide more than 485,200 jobs and that generate an estimated $196 billion in turnover. The U.S. is the top destination for French investments worldwide. Concurrently, the U.S. is the largest foreign investor in France, employing over 619,000 French citizens with aggregate investment estimated at $65.9 billion in 2006.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Craig Roberts Stapleton
Deputy Chief of Mission--Mark Pekala
Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs--Josiah B. Rosenblatt
Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs--Seth Winnick
Minister-Counselor for Commercial Affairs--Robert Connan
Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs--Catherine Barry
Minister-Counselor for Management Affairs-- An T. Le
Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs--James Bullock
Defense Attache--Col. Ray Hodgkins
Counselor for Scientific and Technological Affairs--Robert W. Dry
Consulate General, Marseille--Philip Breeden
Consulate General, Strasbourg--Frankie Reed
Consul, APP Lyon--Harry Sullivan
Consul, APP Toulouse--Jennifer Bachus-Carlton
Consul, APP Rennes--Virginia Murray
Consul, APP Bordeaux--Kenneth Forder
Consul, APP Lille--Jeffrey Hawkins
The U.S. Embassy in France is located at 2 Avenue Gabriel, Paris 8 (tel.  (1) 4312-2222). The United States also is represented in Paris by its mission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).