Germany’s Top 10 Exports

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Europe’s most powerful economy, the Federal Republic of Germany shipped US$1.557 trillion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 3.9% improvement since 2014 and a 7.4% gain from 2017 to 2018.

From a continental perspective, two-thirds (66.1%) of German exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 18.1% were sold to Asian importers. Germany shipped another 10.4% worth of goods to North America. Smaller percentages went to customers in Africa (1.7%), Latin America (1.6%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and Oceania (0.9%) led by Australia.

Given Germany’s population of 80.5 million people, its total $1.557 trillion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $19,400 for every resident in the European economic hub.

In macroeconomic terms, Germany’s total exported goods represent 35.7% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($4.356 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 35.7% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2018 compares to 41% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Germany’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Germany also provided $331.2 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 7.6% of GDP in PPP.

Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Germany’s unemployment rate was 3.2% as of April 2019 — a historic 39-year low as reported by Trading Economics.

Germany’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in German global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Germany.

  1. Machinery including computers: US$271.7 billion (17.5% of total exports)
  2. Vehicles: $263.7 billion (16.9%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: $163.8 billion (10.5%)
  4. Pharmaceuticals: $96.8 billion (6.2%)
  5. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $80 billion (5.1%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $68.1 billion (4.4%)
  7. Aircraft, spacecraft: $41.4 billion (2.7%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: $33.6 billion (2.2%)
  9. Mineral fuels including oil: $33.4 billion (2.1%)
  10. Iron, steel: $29.2 billion (1.9%)

Germany’s top 10 exports accounted for over two-thirds (69.5%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Pharmaceuticals represent the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 14.6% from 2017 to 2018.

In second place for improving export sales was the iron or steel materials category which gained 10.6% in value.

Machinery including computers appreciated by 10.4% year over year, trailed by the articles made from iron or steel category up 9.9%.

One top category declined, namely aircraft or spacecraft thanks to its modest -0.9% retreat.

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.

Advantages

Overall, Germany posted a trade surplus equal to $270 billion in 2018. That dollar amount of black ink represents a -2.4% downtick from the $276.6-billion surplus one year earlier.

The following types of German product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus for 2018. 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.

  1. Vehicles: US$132.6 billion (Down by -0.8% since 2017)
  2. Machinery including computers: $106.2 billion (Up by 10.8%)
  3. Pharmaceuticals: $38.9 billion (Up by 27.6%)
  4. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $35.7 billion (Up by 10.3%)
  5. Aircraft, spacecraft: $24.5 billion (Up by 0.4%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $19 billion (Down by -0.6%)
  7. Other chemical goods: $10.5 billion (Up by 1.9%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: $8 billion (Up by 11.3%)
  9. Paper, paper items: $7.1 billion (Up by 14.5%)
  10. Tanning, dyes, paints, varnishes, ink: $6.5 billion (Up by 7%)

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.

Opportunities

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.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: -US$84.6 billion (Up by 22% since 2017)
  2. Organic chemicals: -$19.5 billion (Up by 112.5%)
  3. Fruits, nuts: -$9.7 billion (Up by 8.8%)
  4. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$9.1 billion (Up by 0.6%)
  5. Ores, slag, ash: -$8.5 billion (Up by 8.7%)
  6. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$7.4 billion (Down by -4.7%)
  7. Vegetables: -$5.9 billion (Up by 5.1%)
  8. Gems, precious metals: -$5.2 billion (Up by 27.3%)
  9. Footwear: -$4.7 billion (Down by -3.7%)
  10. Oil seeds: -$4.6 billion (Up by 5.5%)

Germany has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits, in particular, 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.

Companies

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 200 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Germany during 2018. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2017.

RankGermany's Export Product2018 Value (US$)Change
1Cars$154.7 billion-1.7%
2Automobile parts/accessories$67.1 billion+7.4%
3Medication mixes in dosage$55.7 billion+5.6%
4Aircraft, spacecraft$30.2 billion-2.1%
5Blood fractions (including antisera)$29 billion+16.8%
6Miscellaneous machinery$18 billion+11.8%
7Integrated circuits/microassemblies$16.7 billion+11%
8Computers, optical readers$15.6 billion+4.2%
9Electro-medical equipment (e.g. xrays)$15.5 billion+9.9%
10Lower-voltage switches, fuses$15.4 billion+10.4%
11Taps, valves, similar appliances$14.3 billion+12%
12Piston engine parts$14 billion+2.8%
13Processed petroleum oils$13.9 billion+12.5%
14Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$13.6 billion+13.3%
15Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$13.4 billion+8.7%
16Phone system devices including smartphones$13.2 billion+6.5%
17Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$13.2 billion+12.1%
18Trucks$11.9 billion+15.1%
19Liquid pumps and elevators$11.7 billion+10%
20Turbo-jets$11.7 billion+48.6%
21Aircraft parts$11.1 billion+2.5%
22Petroleum gases$11.1 billion+52.3%
23Air or vacuum pumps$10.7 billion+11.5%
24Printing machinery$10.6 billion+9.1%
25Other measuring/testing machines$9.9 billion+11%
26Miscellaneous plastic items$9.9 billion+9.6%
27Electrical converters/power units$9.5 billion+9.1%
28Tractors$9.5 billion+6.2%
29Physical/chemical analysis tools$9.2 billion+8.2%
30Insulated wire/cable$9 billion+15.8%
31Electric motors, generators$8.5 billion+11.2%
32 Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines $8.3 billion+8.3%
33Miscellaneous furniture$7.9 billion+6.3%
34Cruise/cargo ships, barges$7.4 billion+70%
35Engines (diesel)$7.1 billion+8.4%
36Trailers$7 billion+10.7%
37Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$7 billion+4.6%
38Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$6.8 billion+10.8%
39Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$6.7 billion+6%
40Regulate/control instruments$6.7 billion+13.5%
41Temperature-change machines$6.6 billion+16.6%
42Medication mixes not in dosage$6.6 billion+339.3%
43Rubber/plastic article making machines$6.4 billion+5.8%
44Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$6 billion+10.5%
45Rubber tires (new)$6 billion+2.4%
46Chemical industry products/residuals$5.8 billion+11.3%
47Aluminum plates, sheets, strips$5.8 billion+11.6%
48Orthopedic appliances$5.8 billion+3.5%
49Ball, roller bearings$5.6 billion+8.5%
50Miscellaneous iron or steel items$5.4 billion+10.1%
51X-ray equipment$5.4 billion+6.3%
52Lifting/loading machinery$5.3 billion+14.3%
53Base metal mountings, fittings$5.3 billion+5.4%
54Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$5.3 billion+10.6%
55Piston engines$5.2 billion+4.9%
56Liquid/gas checking instruments$5.2 billion+11.7%
57Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$5.2 billion+9.6%
58Machinery parts$5.1 billion+12%
59Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$5 billion+2.7%
60Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$4.9 billion+7.8%
61Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$4.8 billion+10.2%
62Gold (unwrought)$4.6 billion-2.2%
63Cheese, curd$4.6 billion+3.2%
64Interchangeable hand/machine tools$4.5 billion+6%
65Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$4.5 billion+5%
66Electric water heaters, hair dryers$4.4 billion+6.4%
67Swine meat$4.4 billion-7.4%
68Computer parts, accessories$4.4 billion+14.2%
69Other diagnostic/lab reagents$4.4 billion+2.9%
70Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$4.3 billion+2.7%
71Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters$4.3 billion+11.3%
72Vulcanized rubber items$4.2 billion+6.7%
73Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$4.1 billion+9.3%
74Iron or steel scrap$4.1 billion+13.6%
75Other machine parts, accessories$4.1 billion+8.8%
76Harvest/threshing machinery$4.1 billion+8.2%
77Other organic cleaning preparations$4.1 billion+5.7%
78Miscellaneous engines, motors$4 billion+30%
79Special purpose vehicles$4 billion+9.7%
80Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps$3.9 billion+7.4%
81Ethylene polymers$3.9 billion+4.1%
82Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$3.9 billion+5.6%
83Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)$3.8 billion+17.3%
84Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$3.8 billion+10.6%
85Fork-lift trucks$3.8 billion+10.5%
86Coated paper$3.8 billion+6%
87Electrical energy$3.8 billion+17.5%
88Electrical machinery$3.8 billion+0%
89Radar, radio communication items$3.7 billion+10.9%
90Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances$3.7 billion+12%
91Other food preparations$3.7 billion+8.8%
92Cellulose fiber paper$3.7 billion+10.3%
93Footwear (leather)$3.6 billion+9.4%
94Electric storage batteries$3.6 billion+13.2%
95Unrecorded sound media$3.6 billion-5.1%
96Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$3.5 billion+2.4%
97Propylene/olefin polymers$3.5 billion+5.2%
98Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$3.4 billion+2.1%
99Paper containers, cellulose wadding$3.4 billion+7.5%
100Electric generating sets, converters$3.4 billion+39.2%
101Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)$3.3 billion+11.4%
102Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods$3.2 billion+4.6%
103Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)$3.2 billion+24.6%
104Flat-rolled other alloy steel products$3.2 billion+11%
105Amino-resins$3.2 billion+6.4%
106Platinum (unwrought)$3.1 billion+55.5%
107Pneumatic hand tool$3.1 billion+3.2%
108Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools$3.1 billion+3.9%
109Uncoated paper$3 billion+19.4%
110Copper plates, sheets, strips$3 billion+11.1%
111Polyamides$3 billion+9.4%
112Print/write/draw inks$3 billion-0.1%
113Metal-working machinery$2.9 billion+5.5%
114Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$2.9 billion+4.3%
115Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$2.9 billion+4.9%
116Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$2.9 billion+4.7%
117Cigars/cigarellos, cigarettes$2.9 billion-12.6%
118Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$2.8 billion+4.4%
119Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$2.7 billion+10.3%
120Industrial preparation machinery$2.7 billion+10.5%
121Metal soldering/hot-spray equipment$2.6 billion+9%
122Copper wire$2.6 billion+12.4%
123Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)$2.6 billion+11.2%
124TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$2.6 billion+8.5%
125Refrigerators, freezers$2.6 billion+8%
126Coffee$2.5 billion-3.9%
127Footwear (textile)$2.5 billion+18.8%
128T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)$2.5 billion+9.9%
129Sawn wood$2.5 billion+16.3%
130Sort/screen/washing machinery$2.4 billion+10%
131Paint/varnish non-aqueous solution$2.4 billion+13.4%
132Lenses, prisms, mirrors$2.4 billion+15.6%
133TV/radio/radar device parts$2.4 billion+7.8%
134Motorcycles$2.4 billion+8.8%
135Iron or steel tubes, pipes$2.3 billion+10.8%
136Machinery for making semi-conductors$2.3 billion+5.4%
137Lubricant/cutting-oil preparations$2.3 billion+6.6%
138Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations$2.2 billion+4.3%
139Prepared adhesives, glues$2.2 billion+8.7%
140Models, puzzles, miscellaneous toys$2.2 billion+1.5%
141Acrylic polymers$2.2 billion+8%
142Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing$2.2 billion+7.5%
143Coated/laminated non-wovens$2.1 billion+4.3%
144Railway/tram locomotives, rolling stock$2.1 billion+12.1%
145Acyclic alcohols$2.1 billion+17.6%
146Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$2.1 billion+9.8%
147Nail/staple/glue machine tools$2.1 billion+12.5%
148TV receivers/monitors/projectors$2 billion-3.3%
149Perfumes, toilet waters$2 billion+12.6%
150Electric ignition/start equipment$2 billion-1.2%
151Table games, bowling equipment$2 billion+24.3%
152Precious metal compounds$2 billion+31.3%
153Microphones/headphones/amps$2 billion+10.3%
154Glaze/graft putty, cement, filling$2 billion+5.6%
155Ligneous materials/wood fiberboard$2 billion+3.5%
156Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)$2 billion+10%
157Other coloring matter, luminophores$2 billion+5.4%
158Uncoated paper for writing/printing$2 billion+8.7%
159Cases, handbags, wallets$2 billion+8.4%
160Aluminum bars/rods$2 billion+12.4%
161Air conditioners$1.9 billion+7.8%
162Vinyl chloride polymers$1.9 billion+3.6%
163Navigational aids including compasses$1.9 billion+34.3%
164Jewelry$1.9 billion-3.5%
165Miscellaneous aluminum items$1.9 billion+3.8%
166Women's clothing (knit or crochet)$1.9 billion+17.2%
167Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes$1.9 billion+13.8%
168Miscellaneous printed matter$1.9 billion+8.5%
169Monofilament, rods, sticks, shapes$1.8 billion+4.9%
170Footwear (rubber or plastic)$1.8 billion+12.2%
171Filament/discharge lamps$1.8 billion-8.6%
172Biodiesel$1.8 billion+16.4%
173Electrical capacitators$1.8 billion+36.1%
174Printed books, brochures$1.8 billion+11.5%
175Iron or steel pipe fittings$1.8 billion+12.5%
176Plastic builders' items$1.7 billion+8.3%
177High-voltage switches, fuses$1.7 billion+6.7%
178Aluminum foil (thin)$1.7 billion+10.2%
179Synthetic rubber$1.7 billion+1.7%
180Insulating fitting$1.7 billion+3%
181Alloy steel bars, rods$1.7 billion+18.5%
182Connector/insulating parts$1.7 billion+18.3%
183Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)$1.7 billion+10.4%
184Iron or steel springs, leaves$1.7 billion+7.3%
185Cyclic hydrocarbons$1.7 billion-12.9%
186Derricks, cranes$1.7 billion-0.7%
187Moulding boxes/base$1.6 billion+4.8%
188Vacuum cleaners$1.6 billion+9.3%
189Bridge structures, parts$1.6 billion+8.1%
190Iron or non-alloy steel angles, shapes, sections$1.6 billion+21.3%
191Aluminum waste, scrap$1.6 billion+5.6%
192Vulcanized rubber tubes, pipes$1.6 billion+7.9%
193Copper waste, scrap$1.6 billion-6.2%
194Soil preparation/cultivation machinery$1.6 billion+8.5%
195Electric motor parts$1.6 billion+0.9%
196Central heating boilers$1.5 billion+5.7%
197Locks, lock-keys$1.5 billion+7.4%
198Sanitary towels, baby napkins/liners$1.5 billion+2.8%
199Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)$1.5 billion-4%
200Machine-tool for metal$1.5 billion-4.9%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$1.197 trillion or over three-quarters (76.9%) by value for all products exported from Deutschland during 2018.

See also Germany’s Top 10 Imports, Germany’s Top Trading Partners, Top German Trade Balances and Germany’s Top 10 Major Export Companies

Research Sources:
Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 24, 2019

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 27, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 24, 2019

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 24, 2019

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on June 27, 2019

Wikipedia, Germany. Accessed on February 24, 2019

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 27, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Germany. Accessed on February 24, 2019

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 27, 2019

World’s Richest Countries, Targeted research > Enriching insights > Global opportunities (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 27, 2019