Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Germany’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $3.842 trillion in 2015.
Therefore, exports accounted for 34.6% of total German economic output.
From a continental perspective, 64.5% of German exports by value are delivered to other European countries while 18.4% are sold to Asian importers. Germany ships another 11.3% to North America with 2% worth going to clients in Africa.
Given Germany’s population of 80.9 million people, its total $1.33 trillion in 2015 exports translates to roughly $16,443 for every resident in that country.
Germany’s unemployment rate was 4.3% as of January 2016 according to Trading Economics.
Germany’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in German global shipments during 2015. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Germany.
- Vehicles: US$249 billion (18.7% of total exports)
- Machines, engines, pumps: $226.1 billion (17%)
- Electronic equipment: $131.1 billion (9.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $76.1 billion (5.7%)
- Medical, technical equipment: $61.5 billion (4.6%)
- Plastics: $60.7 billion (4.6%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $46 billion (3.5%)
- Oil: $33 billion (2.5%)
- Iron or steel products: $29.1 billion (2.2%)
- Organic chemicals: $26.9 billion (2%)
Aircraft and spacecraft was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 22.9% for the 5-year period starting in 2011.
In second place for improving export sales were pharmaceuticals which gained 10.7% in value.
German-made vehicles was the only other top 10 category to register an improvement in sales, up a tepid 0.7%.
Leading the decliners was iron or steel products which depreciated -15.7%. In second-last place was German machinery’s -13.6% drop followed by electronic equipment’s -11.8% setback.
The following types of German product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. 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 is 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$147.2 billion (Down by -1.2% since 2011)
- Machines, engines, pumps: $93.2 billion (Down by -13.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $30.6 billion (Up by 52%)
- Medical, technical equipment: $25 billion (Down by -15.7%)
- Plastics: $21.2 billion (Up by 16.2%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $19.6 billion (Up by 69.7%)
- Iron or steel products: $8.7 billion (Down by -15.2%)
- Other chemical goods: $8.7 billion (Up by 7.6%)
- Electronic equipment: $7 billion (Down by -18.6%)
- Paper: $5.6 billion (Down by -38.8%)
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 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.
- Oil: -US$65.9 billion (Down by -50.2% since 2011)
- Knit or crochet clothing: -$8.7 billion (Down by -6.5%)
- Clothing (not knit or crochet): -$8.2 billion (Down by -8.4%)
- Fruits, nuts: -$8.1 billion (Up by 10.4%)
- Ores, slag, ash: -$7 billion (Down by -45.4%)
- Footwear: -$5.5 billion (Up by 27.6%)
- Vegetables: -$5 billion (Down by -2.8%)
- Organic chemicals: -$4.7 billion (Down by -15.1%)
- Gems, precious metals, coins: -$4.1 billion (Up by 687.1%)
- Oil seed: -$4.1 billion (Up by 1.6%)
Germany has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for both crude oil and refined petroleum.
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
Fifty-two German corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000 for 2015. Below is a sample of major German export companies:
- Volkswagen Group (cars, trucks)
- Allianz (diversified insurance)
- Daimler (cars, trucks)
- BMW Group (cars, trucks)
- Siemens (conglomerate, engineering)
- BASF (diversified chemicals)
- Bayer (diversified chemicals)
- Continental (automotive parts)
- Linde (diversified chemicals)
- Fresenius (medical equipment, supplies)
- Henkel (household/personal care items)
- Merck (pharmaceuticals)
- Heidelberg Cement (construction materials)
- Adidas (apparel/accessories)
Germany’s capital city is Berlin.
Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.
See also Germany’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, Germany’s Top Import Partners, Top German Trade Balances and Highest Value German Export Products
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 24, 2016
The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 24, 2016
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on March 24, 2016
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 24, 2016