France's key facts

by Meyer Sosland
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Capital: Paris

Population: 64,057,790 (July 2008 est.)

Religions: Roman Catholic 83%-88%, Muslim 5%-10%, unaffiliated 4%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%.

Location: Western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and English Channel, between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the United Kingdom; bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Spain.

Government: Republic; chief of state: President Nicolas Sarkozy (since May 16, 2007); head of government: Prime Minister Francois Fillon (since May 17, 2007).

Economy: France is in the midst of transition from a well-to-do modern economy that has featured extensive government ownership and intervention to one that relies more on market mechanisms. The government has partially or fully privatized many large companies, banks and insurers, and has ceded stakes in such leading firms as Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales. It maintains a strong presence in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defense industries. The telecommunications sector is gradually being opened to competition. France’s leaders remain committed to a capitalism in which they maintain social equity by means of laws, tax policies and social spending that reduce income disparity and the impact of free markets on public health and welfare. Widespread opposition to labor reform has in recent years hampered the government’s ability to revitalize the economy. In 2007, the government launched divisive labor reform efforts that will continue into 2008. France’s tax burden remains one of the highest in Europe (nearly 50% of GDP in 2005). France brought the budget deficit within the eurozone’s 3%-of-GDP limit for the first time in 2007.

GDP per capita: $33,800 (2007 est.); Inflation: 1.5% (2007 est.); unemployment 8% (2007 est.).

Currency: Euro; May 20, 2008 exchange rate: 1 U.S. dollar = 0.6386 euros.

Exports: $558.9 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): machinery and transportation equipment, aircraft, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, iron and steel, and beverages.

Imports: $601.4 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): machinery and equipment, vehicles, crude oil, aircraft, plastics, and chemicals.

Major crops/agricultural products: Wheat, cereals, sugar beets, potatoes, wine grapes; beef, dairy products, fish.

Agriculture: 2% of GDP and 4.1% of the labor force.

Internet: Code .fr; 12.556 million hosts and 31.295 million users (2007 est.)

Source: World Factbook