Foreign wealth continues to be given by the industrial sector, which represents 47.2% of the gross national product (1972). But a group of industries for about fifteen years – also in connection with the entry of France into the EEC – has suffered a stagnation or a decline: the coal industry due to the high costs of extraction compared to the international level, with the exclusion of Lorraine, whose costs are competitive; traditional textile industries, especially cotton, because they face competition from low-wage countries and at the same time from chemical textiles; the internal steel industry, the Lorraine one in particular, due to the rise of a maritime steel industry which, powered by high import content iron, is located in the port areas of the North and South; shipbuilding, due to strong competition from the international shipbuilding industry, even more Japanese. But there was no lack of industrial transformations and innovations such as those of mechanical construction, electromechanics and electronics, chemicals and parachymics, and in particular the complex of petroleum derivatives industries. When small and medium-sized industries have not been in a position to transform, there has been absorption by larger companies, not infrequently set up with foreign capital (half of the investments are due to US financial groups). At the same time, the participation of the state in various industrial sectors of collective interest has increased.
The French steel industry is geographically very concentrated, mainly located in the iron and coal deposits.
According to Payhelpcenter.com, France is always at the top in Europe for the extraction of iron ore (30-35% iron content), while steel production ranks sixth in the world with over 21 million t in 1975 (16 % Martin steel, 37% oxygen steel, 35% Thomas, the remainder obtained from electric blast furnaces) to which 18 million tonnes of cast iron and ferroalloys must be added. The Eastern region, with Lorraine, holds the record supplying about 70% of the French production of cast iron and 60% of that of steel. The North (30% of cast iron and 30% of steel) is the most recently developed area, best favored for the presence of coal and the proximity of the coast as well as the Paris region. The most modern steel industry is therefore located on the coast, in the port of Dunkerque,
In the metallurgical sector, which has a wide range of products, the aluminum industry (almost 400 thousand tons per year) always has a significant position, present for the demand for electricity in the Alpine and Pyrenean regions. At the same time, the rich methane fields of Lacq led to the construction of a large plant in Noguères.
During the 1960s, among the industries that produce means of transport, the automotive industry (which employs 380,000 people) has a place of great importance: Renault (nationalized, with over 155,000 employees) excel in this sector, Citroën (100,000 employees), Peugeot (85,000) and Simca (30,000). Production in 1974 exceeded 3 million cars. The major factories are concentrated in the Parisian agglomeration, but the industrial decentralization policy has led to the location of new complexes in Le Havre, Strasbourg, Rennes, Le Mans, etc. The growing motorization has determined a full development of the rubber industry. Position of prestige and at the same time in considerable development is that taken by the aeronautical industry, which produces for both civilian and military customers, focusing on the high technological level achieved by this French industry (supersonic aircraft Caravelle and Concorde, Mirage fighters). The factories are concentrated in the suburbs of Paris and in the South-West of the country. The shipyards have been deeply structured to try to face the strong international competition.
10% of French industrial production is represented by the chemical sector, which has distinguished itself for its particular dynamism in the last fifteen years: France is in fourth place in the world in this field. The restructuring, mergers and concentrations of this industry have led to the formation of large metallurgical-chemical complexes, which dominate in the artificial and synthetic fibers sector.
Petrochemicals are widely represented at refineries and methane fields; carbochemistry developed in the coalfields of Lorraine and the North; electrochemistry is located in the Northern Alps and the central Pyrenees. The basic production and the chemical fertilizer industry have arisen especially at the sources of energy or raw materials and near the port areas where the hydrocarbons land. There is a huge production of sulfuric acid (4 million t), obtained partly from national pyrites and partly from sulfur, dyes and fertilizers; on the other hand, for phosphates, France depends largely on foreign countries.
The textile industry still employs more than 371,000 people even today despite suffering recurring crises, on the one hand due to competition from synthetic fibers and on the other due to the reduction in commercial outlets, so much so that overall production has remained almost unchanged over the last twenty years. The Northern region is still the most important French textile area (wool, cotton and linen), while the North-East has very important cotton processing complexes around Mulhouse and Épinal. An industrial restructuring has had the Lyon textile region, which has been able to pass from the processing of natural silk to that of artificial and synthetic fibers.