Imports fell to €42.2 billion in March and exports slipped to €36.5 billion.
The drop in exports was led by manufactured goods with diminishing sales reported in the electronics, auto and metals sectors.
Aerospace deliveries, which had shown strength of late, dipped as well, the customs office said in a statement.
The 12-month trade deficit came in at €68.60 billion, lower than the newly revised record of €70.67 billion France posted for 2011.
France has a big structural trade deficit which is a central concern to policymakers and contrasts with a big surplus by the leading eurozone economy, neighbouring Germany.
Earlier Wednesday Germany posted record figures for both imports and exports leaving trade surplus for March of €17.4 billion.
A trade surplus is important because it contributes to growth of gross domestic product, while a trade deficit tends to be a drag on the economy.