Europe’s most powerful economy, the Federal Republic of Germany shipped US$1.486 trillion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 12.3% improvement since 2015 but a -4.5% retreat from 2018 to 2019.
Germany’s exported goods totaled $990.5 billion during the first 9 months of 2020. Assuming an annualized $1.321 trillion in exports for all 2020, Germany is on track for an estimated -11.2% drop in value for its shipments from 2019 to 2020.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, Germany uses the euro which appreciated by 0.9% against the US dollar since 2015 but declined by -5.5% from 2018 to 2019. The weaker EU currency in 2019 made Germany’s exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers compared to 2018.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 65.7% of products exported from Germany were bought by importers in: the United States (8.9% of the global total), France (8%), China (7.2%), Netherlands (6.3%), United Kingdom (5.9%), Italy (5.1%), Poland (5%), Austria (4.8%), Switzerland (4.3%), Belgium (3.5%), Czech Republic (3.4%) and Spain (3.3%).
From a continental perspective, about two-thirds (65.6%) of Germany’s exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 18.1% were sold to importers in Asia. Germany shipped another 10.8% worth of goods to North America. Smaller percentages went to Africa (1.8%), Latin America (1.7%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean then Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand (0.8%).
Given Germany’s population of 83 million people, its total $1.486 trillion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $17,900 for every resident in the European economic hub.
Germany’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in German global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Germany.
- Machinery including computers: US$260.7 billion (17.5% of total exports)
- Vehicles: $243.7 billion (16.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $158.7 billion (10.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $90.4 billion (6.1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $79.3 billion (5.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $63.2 billion (4.3%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $42.3 billion (2.8%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $34.2 billion (2.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $31.3 billion (2.1%)
- Other chemical goods: $26.3 billion (1.8%)
Germany’s top 10 exports accounted for over two-thirds (69.3%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 3% from 2018 to 2019. The only other increase was for German shipments of aircraft and spacecraft via a 2% gain.
The leading decliner among Germany’s top 10 export categories was vehicles thanks to a -7.6% drop year over year.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Germany’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.
Overall, Germany posted a trade surplus equal to $250.2 billion in 2019. That dollar amount of black ink represents a -7.1% downtick from the $269.4-billion surplus one year earlier.
The following types of German product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus for 2019. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports. In a nutshell, net exports reflect the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Vehicles: US$107.9 billion (Down by -18.6% since 2018)
- Machinery including computers: $100.6 billion (Down by -5.3%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $35.3 billion (Down by -1.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $30.7 billion (Down by -21.3%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $25.2 billion (Up by 2.8%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $18.3 billion (Down by -3.4%)
- Other chemical goods: $10.1 billion (Down by -4.1%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $7.3 billion (Down by -5.9%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $7.3 billion (Up by 60%)
- Paper, paper items: $6.8 billion (Down by -4.9%)
Germany has highly positive net exports in the international trade of cars and automotive parts. In turn, these cashflows indicate Germany’s strong competitive advantages and engineering excellence under the vehicles product category.
Below are exports from Germany that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Germany’s goods trail German importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$75.1 billion (Down by -11% since 2018)
- Organic chemicals: -$14.6 billion (Down by -24.6%)
- Fruits, nuts: -$9.1 billion (Down by -6.3%)
- Ores, slag, ash: -$8.8 billion (Up by 3.1%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$8.3 billion (Down by -9.4%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$6.8 billion (Down by -8.7%)
- Vegetables: -$5.8 billion (Down by -2.9%)
- Oil seeds: -$4.6 billion (Up by 1%)
- Footwear: -$4.2 billion (Down by -8.9%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$3.1 billion (Up by 0.8%)
Germany has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits particularly for both crude oil and refined petroleum oils.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Germany’s competitive disadvantages in the international oil market, but also represent key opportunities for Germany to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations in alternative energy sources.
German Export Companies
Over fifty German corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a selected sample of major German export companies:
- Adidas (apparel/accessories)
- Allianz (diversified insurance)
- BASF (diversified chemicals)
- Bayer (diversified chemicals)
- BMW Group (cars, trucks)
- Continental (automotive parts)
- Daimler (cars, trucks)
- Fresenius (medical equipment, supplies)
- Heidelberg Cement (construction materials)
- Henkel (household/personal care items)
- Linde (diversified chemicals)
- Merck (pharmaceuticals)
- Siemens (conglomerate, engineering)
- Volkswagen Group (cars, trucks)
Searchable List of Germany’s Most Valuable Export Products
At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, Germany’s top export products are cars followed by automotive parts and accessories then therapeutic or prophylactic drugs and medicines.
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Germany during 2019. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2018.
|Rank||Germany's Export Product||2019 Value (US$)||Change|
|3||Medication mixes in dosage||$56,238,391,000||+0.8%|
|5||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$28,141,918,000||-3.2%|
|7||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$16,181,296,000||+4.3%|
|8||Computers, optical readers||$14,880,405,000||-5.1%|
|10||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$14,435,596,000||-6.7%|
|11||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$14,040,459,000||-2.3%|
|12||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$13,810,817,000||+2.5%|
|13||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$13,801,905,000||+1.2%|
|15||Phone system devices||$13,147,211,000||-2.7%|
|16||Piston engine parts||$13,046,098,000||-7.4%|
|18||Processed petroleum oils||$12,637,480,000||-9.3%|
|19||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$12,583,796,000||-4.9%|
|20||Liquid pumps and elevators||$11,320,006,000||-3.4%|
|23||Air or vacuum pumps||$9,863,052,000||-8%|
|25||Miscellaneous plastic items||$9,575,967,000||-3.9%|
|26||Other measuring/testing machines||$9,154,852,000||-8.4%|
|27||Electrical converters/power units||$9,105,408,000||-4.1%|
|28||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$8,726,024,000||-5.6%|
|31||Electric motors, generators||$8,191,091,000||-4%|
|32||Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines||$8,121,105,000||-2.5%|
|35||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$6,703,837,000||-4.4%|
|39||Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers||$6,500,950,000||-5.4%|
|40||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$6,385,104,000||-5.4%|
|42||Rubber tires (new)||$5,653,020,000||-6.5%|
|43||Rubber/plastic article making machines||$5,636,727,000||-12.3%|
|45||Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches||$5,585,403,000||-7.8%|
|48||Aluminum plates, sheets, strips||$5,507,845,000||-5.8%|
|49||Chemical industry products/residuals||$5,481,270,000||-6.2%|
|51||Ball, roller bearings||$5,128,997,000||-7.8%|
|52||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$5,103,593,000||-7%|
|54||Liquid/gas checking instruments||$5,014,517,000||-4%|
|55||Base metal mountings, fittings||$4,979,236,000||-6.2%|
|57||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$4,942,784,000||-6.8%|
|58||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$4,924,866,000||-0.9%|
|59||Cruise/cargo ships, barges||$4,770,620,000||-36.1%|
|61||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$4,618,197,000||-7.5%|
|63||Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)||$4,490,965,000||-5.9%|
|64||Electric water heaters, hair dryers||$4,439,642,000||+0.1%|
|65||Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters||$4,332,394,000||+0.3%|
|66||Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings||$4,276,930,000||-4.4%|
|67||Other diagnostic/lab reagents||$4,250,994,000||-3.2%|
|68||Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps||$4,241,038,000||+7.5%|
|69||Electric storage batteries||$4,192,421,000||+17.3%|
|70||Interchangeable hand/machine tools||$4,124,523,000||-9.2%|
|72||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$4,048,118,000||-2.7%|
|74||Vulcanized rubber items||$4,025,980,000||-4.2%|
|75||Special purpose vehicles||$4,020,204,000||+1.2%|
|76||Miscellaneous engines, motors||$4,004,681,000||-1%|
|77||Radar, radio communication items||$3,883,514,000||+3.3%|
|78||Other organic cleaning preparations||$3,871,555,000||-5%|
|79||Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)||$3,859,962,000||-0.9%|
|83||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$3,770,388,000||-2.6%|
|84||Heterocyclics, nucleic acids||$3,760,630,000||+6.9%|
|86||Other food preparations||$3,728,202,000||+0.2%|
|87||Other machine parts, accessories||$3,704,120,000||-9.9%|
|89||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$3,603,394,000||-7.2%|
|91||Computer parts, accessories||$3,455,225,000||-22.1%|
|92||Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances||$3,434,696,000||-8.2%|
|93||Iron or steel scrap||$3,402,824,000||-18%|
|94||Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)||$3,348,453,000||+4.3%|
|96||Cellulose fiber paper||$3,342,145,000||-9.1%|
|97||Paper containers, cellulose wadding||$3,333,015,000||-3.3%|
|98||Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)||$3,311,568,000||+1.5%|
|99||Unrecorded sound media||$3,294,720,000||-8.4%|
|100||Electric generating sets, converters||$3,279,997,000||-2.8%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$939.5 trillion or over three-fifths (63.2%) by value for all products exported from Deutschland during 2019.
In macroeconomic terms, Germany’s total exported goods represent 33.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($4.444 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 33.4% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2019 compares to 35.7% one year earlier. This seems to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Germany’s total economic performance, albeit based on a very short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Germany’s unemployment rate was 4.5% at November 2020, up from an average 3.206% for 2019 according to the International Monetary Fund.
See also Germany’s Top 10 Imports, Germany’s Top Trading Partners, Top German Trade Balances and Germany’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
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