Germany’s Top 10 Exports

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Europe’s most powerful economy, Germany shipped US$1.445 trillion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount reflects a -0.4% retreat since 2013 but a 7.8% gain from 2016 to 2017.

From January to September 2018, Germany’s exported goods were valued at $1.181 trillion. This 9-month metric puts German exports on track for an annualized $1.56 trillion estimated for all 2018 and a projected 7.6% year-over-year gain.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Germany’s exported goods plus services represent 47.3% of total German economic output or Gross Domestic Product. Please note that the overall value of exported goods and services includes a sizable share of re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective, 65.9% of German exports by value were delivered to other European countries while 18.3% were sold to Asian importers. Germany shipped another 10.5% worth of goods to North America. Smaller percentages went to customers in Africa (2%) and Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.6%).

Given Germany’s population of 80.6 million people, its total $1.445 trillion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $17,900 for every resident in the European economic hub.

Germany’s unemployment rate was 3.3% as of November 2018 — an improvement from the 3.6% jobless rate as reported by Trading Economics 12 months earlier.

Germany’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in German global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Germany.

  1. Vehicles: US$257.2 billion (17.8% of total exports)
  2. Machinery including computers: $245.4 billion (17%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: $148.8 billion (10.3%)
  4. Pharmaceuticals: $84.1 billion (5.8%)
  5. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $72.8 billion (5%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $63.6 billion (4.4%)
  7. Aircraft, spacecraft: $41.8 billion (2.9%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: $30.5 billion (2.1%)
  9. Mineral fuels including oil: $26.8 billion (1.9%)
  10. Iron, steel: $26.4 billion (1.8%)

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.

Germany’s top 10 exports accounted for over two-thirds (69%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Iron and steel represent the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 21.4% from 2016 to 2017.

In second place for improving export sales was the optical, technical and medical apparatus category which gained 11.5% in value.

Machinery including computers appreciated by 9.9%, trailed by the pharmaceuticals category up 9.1% year over year.

Two top categories declined, namely aircraft or spacecraft (down -6.1%) and mineral fuels including oil (down -8.4%).


Overall, Germany posted a trade surplus equal to $276.6 billion in 2017. That dollar amount of black ink represents a 4.9% uptick from the $263.6-billion surplus during 2010 but a -1.2% dip from Germany’s $280.1-billion trade surplus during 2016.

As of June 2018, Germany’s trade surplus stood at $147 billion up 11.8% compared to the first 6 months of 2017.

The following types of German product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus for 2017. 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$134 billion (Up by 0.7% since 2016)
  2. Machinery including computers: $96.8 billion (Up by 12.1%)
  3. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $32.5 billion (Up by 20.1%)
  4. Pharmaceuticals: $30.5 billion (Up by 8.9%)
  5. Aircraft, spacecraft: $24.6 billion (Down by -0.1%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $19.1 billion (Down by -12.5%)
  7. Other chemical goods: $10.2 billion (Up by 4.7%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: $7.2 billion (Down by -0.9%)
  9. Paper, paper items: $6.2 billion (Up by 5.4%)
  10. Tanning, dyes, paints, varnishes, ink: $6 billion (Up by 4.6%)

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.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: -US$69.4 billion (Up by 41% since 2016)
  2. Organic chemicals: -$9.1 billion (Up by 86.6%)
  3. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$9.1 billion (Down by -3.4%)
  4. Fruits, nuts: -$8.9 billion (Up by 10.6%)
  5. Ores, slag, ash: -$7.8 billion (Up by 27.7%)
  6. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$7.7 billion (Down by -11.9%)
  7. Gems, precious metals: -$5.6 billion (Up by 214.6%)
  8. Vegetables: -$5.6 billion (Up by 5.4%)
  9. Footwear: -$4.9 billion (Down by -5.6%)
  10. Oil seeds: -$4.3 billion (Up by 4.6%)

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. Below is a 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 2017. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2016.

RankGerman Export Product2017 Value (US$)Change
1Cars$157.4 billion+3.6%
2Automobile parts/accessories$62.5 billion+10.9%
3Medication mixes in dosage$52.7 billion+8.5%
4Aircraft, spacecraft$30.8 billion-12.3%
5Blood fractions (including antisera)$24.9 billion+8.9%
6Miscellaneous machinery$16.1 billion+18.9%
7Integrated circuits/microassemblies$15.1 billion+23.2%
8Computers, optical readers$14.9 billion+22.7%
9Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)$14.1 billion+7.9%
10Lower-voltage switches, fuses$14 billion+12.6%
11Piston engine parts$13.7 billion+5.1%
12Taps, valves, similar appliances$12.8 billion+13.7%
13Mobile phones, other phone devices $12.4 billion-5.3%
14Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$12.4 billion+5.7%
15Processed petroleum oils$12.3 billion+12.5%
16Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$12 billion+14.1%
17Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$11.8 billion+10.1%
18Aircraft parts$10.9 billion+17.2%
19Liquid pumps and elevators$10.6 billion+10.3%
20Trucks$10.3 billion-0.1%
21Printing machinery$9.7 billion+9.8%
22Air or vacuum pumps$9.6 billion+6.8%
23Miscellaneous plastic items$9 billion+9.5%
24Other measuring/testing machines$8.9 billion+10.5%
25Tractors$8.9 billion+6.4%
26Electrical converters/power units$8.7 billion+12.5%
27Physical/chemical analysis tools$8.5 billion+15.9%
28Turbo-jets$7.8 billion-4%
29Insulated wire/cable$7.8 billion+11.9%
30 Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines $7.7 billion+5.2%
31Electric motors, generators$7.6 billion+9%
32Miscellaneous furniture$7.5 billion+3.2%
33Petroleum gases$7.3 billion+27.6%
34Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$6.7 billion+7.4%
35Engines (diesel)$6.6 billion+10.4%
36Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$6.3 billion+7.8%
37Trailers$6.3 billion+10.6%
38Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$6.2 billion+13.3%
39Rubber/plastic article making machines$6 billion+10.2%
40Regulate/control instruments$5.9 billion+17%
41Rubber tires (new)$5.9 billion+7%
42Temperature-change machines$5.7 billion+19.4%
43Orthopedic appliances$5.6 billion+0.1%
44Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$5.5 billion+13.8%
45Chemical industry products/residuals$5.2 billion+11.4%
46Aluminum plates, sheets, strips$5.2 billion+6.9%
47Ball, roller bearings$5.1 billion+16.4%
48X-ray equipment$5.1 billion+8.2%
49Base metal mountings, fittings$5 billion+5.4%
50Piston engines$5 billion+4.3%
51Miscellaneous iron or steel items$4.9 billion+11.4%
52Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$4.8 billion+7.1%
53Swine meat$4.8 billion+9.5%
54Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$4.7 billion+8.3%
55Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$4.7 billion+13.6%
56Gold (unwrought)$4.7 billion-8.9%
57Lifting/loading machinery$4.7 billion+17.6%
58Liquid/gas checking instruments$4.7 billion+16.3%
59Machinery parts$4.6 billion+13.3%
60Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$4.6 billion+7%
61Cheese, curd$4.4 billion+20.3%
62Cruise/cargo ships, barges$4.4 billion+17.3%
63Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$4.3 billion+5.7%
64Interchangeable hand/machine tools$4.3 billion+9.3%
65Other diagnostic/lab reagents$4.3 billion+8.3%
66Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$4.2 billion+13.2%
67Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$4.2 billion+4.4%
68Electric water heaters, hair dryers$4.1 billion+6.7%
69Vulcanized rubber items$3.9 billion+10.1%
70Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters$3.9 billion+10.7%
71Computer parts, accessories$3.9 billion+52.9%
72Other organic cleaning preparations$3.8 billion+6.7%
73Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$3.8 billion+6.1%
74Harvest/threshing machinery$3.8 billion+16.2%
75Electrical machinery$3.8 billion+6.4%
76Other machine parts, accessories$3.8 billion+12%
77Unrecorded sound media$3.7 billion-15.7%
78Ethylene polymers$3.7 billion+6%
79Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps$3.7 billion-1.6%
80Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$3.7 billion+7.2%
81Special purpose vehicles$3.6 billion+9.7%
82Iron or steel scrap$3.6 billion+29.7%
83Coated paper$3.6 billion+4.8%
84Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$3.5 billion+8.3%
85Fork-lift trucks$3.4 billion+14.8%
86Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$3.4 billion+1.4%
87Other food preparations$3.4 billion+9.2%
88Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$3.4 billion+3.3%
89Radar, radio communication items$3.4 billion+17.3%
90Cellulose fiber paper$3.3 billion+4.4%
91Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances$3.3 billion+13.4%
92Footwear (leather)$3.3 billion+24.1%
93Cigars/cigarellos, cigarettes$3.3 billion-12.1%
94Propylene/olefin polymers$3.3 billion+16.2%
95Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)$3.3 billion+22.5%
96Electrical energy$3.2 billion+5.3%
97Paper containers, cellulose wadding$3.2 billion+8.1%
98Electric storage batteries$3.1 billion+29%
99Miscellaneous engines, motors$3.1 billion+11.6%
100Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods$3.1 billion-2.6%
101Pneumatic hand tool$3 billion+8.3%
102Amino-resins$3 billion+18.6%
103Print/write/draw inks$3 billion+0.9%
104Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools$3 billion+36.6%
105Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)$2.9 billion+20.2%
106Flat-rolled other alloy steel products$2.9 billion+21.5%
107Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$2.8 billion+11.6%
108Metal-working machinery$2.8 billion+18.3%
109Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$2.8 billion+11.3%
110Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$2.8 billion+18.5%
111Polyamides$2.7 billion+20.7%
112Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$2.7 billion+40.5%
113Copper plates, sheets, strips$2.7 billion+20.2%
114Coffee$2.6 billion+13.8%
115Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)$2.6 billion+26.1%
116Uncoated paper$2.5 billion+2.5%
117Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$2.5 billion+10%
118Industrialpreparation machinery$2.5 billion+4.7%
119Electric generating sets, converters$2.4 billion-26.8%
120Metal soldering/hot-spray equipment$2.4 billion+21.5%
121TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$2.4 billion+19.5%
122Refrigerators, freezers$2.4 billion+5.1%
123Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)$2.4 billion+22.2%
124Copper wire$2.3 billion+11.9%
125T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)$2.3 billion+18.8%
126Sort/screen/washing machinery$2.2 billion+8.1%
127TV/radio/radar device parts$2.2 billion+7.3%
128Models, puzzles, miscellaneous toys$2.2 billion+9.4%
129Machinery for making semi-conductors$2.2 billion+25.3%
130Motorcycles$2.2 billion+20.7%
131Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels$2.2 billion+53.3%
132Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations$2.2 billion+22%
133Sawn wood$2.1 billion+15.1%
134Lubricant preparations$2.1 billion+12.7%
135Footwear (textile)$2.1 billion+48.2%
136Paint/varnish non-aqueous solution$2.1 billion+5.5%
137Iron or steel tubes, pipes$2.1 billion+11.6%
138TV receivers/monitors/projectors$2.1 billion-0.01%
139Lenses, prisms, mirrors$2.1 billion+21.6%
140Prepared glues, other adhesives$2.1 billion+18.1%
141Coated/laminated non-wovens$2.1 billion+8.2%
142Acrylic polymers$2 billion+9.7%
143Electric ignition/start equipment$2 billion+11.4%
144Platinum (unwrought)$2 billion+40.3%
145Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing$2 billion+8.8%
146Filament/discharge lamps$2 billion+26.5%
147Jewelry$2 billion+8.1%
148Fiberboard$1.9 billion+6.6%
149Cyclic hydrocarbons$1.9 billion+23.7%
150Railway/streetcar miscellaneous parts$1.9 billion+2.5%
151Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$1.9 billion+18.4%
152Glaze/graft putty, cement, filling$1.9 billion+6.3%
153Other coloring matter, luminophores$1.9 billion+21.4%
154Vinyl chloride polymers$1.9 billion+13%
155Miscellaneous aluminum items$1.8 billion+12.2%
156Machine tools for assembling$1.8 billion+11.4%
157Microphones/headphones/amps$1.8 billion+11.2%
158Uncoated paper for writing/printing$1.8 billion+1.3%
159Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)$1.8 billion+9.1%
160Air conditioners$1.8 billion+12%
161Cases, handbags, wallets$1.8 billion+12.9%
162Perfumes, toilet waters$1.8 billion-1.8%
163Acyclic alcohols$1.8 billion+21.2%
164Monofilaments$1.8 billion+9.3%
165Aluminum bars/rods$1.7 billion+17.4%
166Printed matter including photos$1.7 billion-2%
167Synthetic rubber$1.7 billion+22.7%
168Copper waste, scrap$1.7 billion+29.3%
169Insulating fitting$1.7 billion+25.8%
170Railway/streetcar coaches, vans, trucks$1.7 billion+50.6%
171Derricks, cranes$1.7 billion+12.1%
172Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes$1.7 billion+16.4%
173Footwear (rubber or plastic)$1.6 billion+14.9%
174High-voltage switches, fuses$1.6 billion+1.6%
175Women's clothing (knit or crochet)$1.6 billion+33.3%
176Table games, bowling equipment$1.6 billion+53.9%
177Plastic builders' items$1.6 billion+9.5%
178Wheat$1.6 billion-16.9%
179Printed books, brochures$1.6 billion+5.6%
180Iron or steel springs, leaves$1.6 billion+13%
181Aluminum foil (thin)$1.6 billion+7.6%
182Moulding boxes/base$1.6 billion+16%
183Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)$1.6 billion+4.7%
184Machine-tool for metal$1.6 billion+5.1%
185Iron or steel pipe fittings$1.6 billion+7.3%
186Biodiesel$1.6 billion+9.2%
187Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)$1.5 billion+8.9%
188Electric motor parts$1.5 billion-2.6%
189Precious metal compounds$1.5 billion+42.2%
190Aluminum waste, scrap$1.5 billion+14.4%
191Bridge structures, parts$1.5 billion+0.3%
192Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream$1.5 billion+18.1%
193Medication mixes not in dosage$1.5 billion+296.8%
194Vacuum cleaners$1.5 billion+22.3%
195Silver (unwrought)$1.5 billion+9.8%
196Sanitary towels, baby napkins/liners$1.5 billion-4.1%
197Public-transport vehicles$1.5 billion+12.4%
198Not concentrated/unsweetened milk, cream$1.5 billion+14.6%
199Vulcanized rubber tubes, pipes$1.5 billion+12.9%
200Central heating boilers$1.5 billion+10.1%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$1.109 trillion or over three-quarters (76.5%) by value for all products exported from Deutschland during 2017.

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:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 30, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on July 30, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on December 31, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 30, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Germany. Accessed on July 30, 2018

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 30, 2018