France - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Financing
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Methods of Payment

For U.S. exporters, financing export sales is the same as financing domestic sales. Prompt payment for the goods/ or services delivered is always a concern.

France’s modern banking system offers a full range of payment methods including:

Commercial letters of credit such as: sight and time drafts, bank transfers, certified checks, and electronic payments including electronic payment orders, pre-formatted inter-bank payment orders, electronic commercial trade bills, and electronically processed promissory notes for use in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).

Cross-border payment services are becoming faster, cheaper, and safer in Europe. As of January 28, 2008, businesses are able to make faster euro credit transfers. Since November 1, 2010, payments with direct debit are available, and businesses are able to set up cross-border direct debits in euros between two SEPA countries.   On February 14, 2012, the European Parliament set February 1, 2014, as the deadline for banks to ensure that their payment schemes comply with the SEPA Regulation.  The EU commission did not change the formal deadline for migration but extended the SEPA changeover by six months. This provides German banks more time to transfer to the SEPA payment system and ensure minimal disruption for consumers and businesses.  The deadline will be October 31, 2016, for banks established in non-Eurozone Member States.

Alternatively, the Commerce Department’s Market Research Library is available under Country and Industry Market Reports:  Market Intelligence.

For more information about the methods of payment or other trade finance options, please read the Trade Finance Guide.  To access France’s ICS section on financing, visit the U.S. Department of State Investment Climate Statement website.

Banking Systems

The French banking system underwent a fundamental structural reform in 1984, which removed most of the distinction between commercial banks and merchant banks and grouped most financial institutions under a single supervisory system. The largest commercial banks, such as Crédit Agricole - LCL, BPCE (Banque Populaire Caisse d’Épargne), Société Générale, BNP Paribas, Natixis, Crédit Mutuel - CIC group, and HSBC France rank among the largest banks in the world. These commercial banks offer all classic financing instruments, including short, medium, and long-term loans, short-and medium-term credit facilities, and secured and non-secured overdrafts.  Commercial banks also assist in public offerings of shares and corporate debt, as well as mergers, acquisitions, and takeovers.  Banks offer hedging against interest rate and currency fluctuations. France also has 132 foreign banks: some with sizeable branch networks.

The Bank of France (Banque de France) is a member of the European Central Bank (ECB) system, and the Banque de France’s governor sits on the executive board of the European Central Bank. The Banque de France introduced Euro-denominated banknotes and coins in January 2002, completing the transition to the Euro and eliminating the French franc.

The Banque de France participates in the regulation and supervision of the French banking and financial system.  Its governor is also president of the Prudential Control Authority, which grants or withdraws banking licenses, ensures that banks adhere to banking regulations, and supervises insurance companies.  In July 2013, France passed a reform of the banking law which separates customer services from the proprietary trading activities in order to reduce the risks incurred by the depositors. The Prudential Control Authority was renamed the Prudential Supervisory and Resolution Authority as it is supervising the preparation and implementation of measures to prevent and resolve bank crises.

The French government has sold the majority of its equity stakes in major banks and insurance companies.  However, it retains ownership of the “Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations” and minority stakes in several major financial institutions. The French postal service, La Poste, an independent public entity, holds 10% of the French financial services market.  La Poste has created its own bank, “La Banque Postale”, which acquired the status of a regular bank in 2006.

Alternatively, the Commerce Department’s Market Research Library is available under Country and Industry Market Reports:  Market Intelligence

Foreign Exchange Controls

As part of the international effort to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism, France’s banking regulations have undergone several changes as recommended by the Financial Action Task Force (  ) that affect the handling of checks. New policy steps aim to reduce anonymity in financial transactions and reinforce the oversight mechanisms required of the financial community.  In addition to implementing EU Common Positions regarding terrorists or arms proliferators, France can use its powers under national law to execute asset freeze orders against terrorists.  In general, all inward and outward payments must be made through approved banking intermediaries by bank transfers.

Repatriation of Capital and Earnings

There is no restriction on repatriation of capital provided that the investment is authorized and is carried out through an approved bank.  Similarly, there is no restriction on transfers of profits, interest, royalties, or service fees, provided the investment is authorized and made through approved banks.


Foreign-controlled French businesses are required to have a resident French bank account and are subject to the same regulations as other French legal entities.  The use of foreign bank accounts by residents is permitted.


France has few controls on the use of foreign exchange.  For exchange control purposes, foreigners are residents from the time they arrive in France. French and foreign citizens are subject to the same rules.  Residents are entitled to an account in a foreign currency with a bank established in France. They are also able to establish accounts abroad.

US Banks & Local Correspondent Banks

All large French banks have corresponding U.S. banking arrangements.

Many French banks also have subsidiaries or branch offices in the United States; the following non-exhaustive list is based on information from individual banks and from the Federal Reserve.

BNP Paribas: Bank of the West (Bank of the West and First Hawaiian Bank in twenty West and Mid-west States); BNP Paribas (Addison, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Houston, King of Prussia, Miami, San Francisco); Banque Privée Miami; Cardif Etats-Unis; CIB États-Unis; Investment partners; Securities services; Real Estate; Fischer Francis Trees & Watts;  L’Atelier;  PRH Arval ; BNP Paribas ; Société Générale: Société Générale (Chicago, Dallas, Houston and New York); SG Equipment (Jersey City): SG CIB (New York); CGI North America (Baltimore); TCW (New York); Société Générale Private Banking (New York and Miami); Amundi (Chicago) Societe Generale; Crédit Industriel et Commercial: CIC (New York)  CIC;  Banque Transatlantique (New York) ;  NATIXIS (Houston, New York);  Crédit Agricole: Calyon (Chicago, Houston, New York); Credit Agricole Private Banking (Miami) Credit Agricole cib; Dexia Credit Local (New York)

Major American banks and financial institutions present in Paris

American Express Cartes France

Bank of America Merrill Lynch

The Bank of New York Mellon (representative office)

Banque AIG (subsidiary)

Goldman Sachs (subsidiary)

Citigroup Global Markets Limited

JP Morgan Chase Bank (subsidiary)

Banque Lazard