The world’s third-largest exporter after China and the United States, Germany shipped US$1.557 trillion worth of products around the globe in 2018. That dollar figure represents roughly 8.9% of overall global exports estimated at $17.546 trillion one year earlier in 2017.
Reported as of August 15, 2019, Germany exported $632.9 billion worth of goods during the first 5 months of 2019 dropping -5.1% compared to the same period one year earlier.
About two-thirds (66.1%) of German exports by value in 2018 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.
Germany’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Germany’s top trading partners. That is, countries that imported the most German shipments by dollar value during 2018. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total German exports.
- United States: US$134 billion (8.6% of total German exports)
- France: $124.4 billion (8%)
- China: $109.9 billion (7.1%)
- Netherlands: $99.8 billion (6.4%)
- United Kingdom: $96.8 billion (6.2%)
- Italy: $82.6 billion (5.3%)
- Austria: $75.2 billion (4.8%)
- Poland: $74.7 billion (4.8%)
- Switzerland: $64.3 billion (4.1%)
- Spain: $52.4 billion (3.4%)
- Belgium: $52.3 billion (3.4%)
- Czech Republic: $51.8 billion (3.3%)
- Sweden: $31.1 billion (2%)
- Hungary: $31 billion (2%)
- Russia: $30.6 billion (2%)
Over seven-tenths (71.3%) of German exports in 2018 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Via its 12.4% gain from 2017 to 2018, China posted the fastest growth among the top importers from Germany.
In second place was Italy (up 11.8%) trailed by Poland (up 11.3%), Czech Republic (up 10.9%) then Hungary (up 10%).
Russia posted the smallest growth in demand among Germany’s top importers via a 1.9% gain year over year.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
Germany incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries:
- China: -US$15.3 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2018)
- Vietnam: -$6.7 billion
- Bangladesh: -$5.9 billion
- Netherlands: -$5.3 billion
- Czech Republic: -$4.5 billion
- Malaysia: -$4.5 billion
- Japan: -$3.9 billion
- Libya: -$3.7 billion
- Taiwan: -$2.8 billion
- Ireland: -$2.7 billion
Among Germany’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, German deficits with Libya (up 49.7%), Netherlands (up 32.5%) and Taiwan (up 26.9%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Germany’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Germany to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Germany posted an overall 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.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
Germany incurred the highest trade surpluses at the expense of the following countries:
- United States: US$57.8 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2018)
- United Kingdom: $53.4 billion
- France: $47.5 billion
- Austria: $25.6 billion
- Spain: $14 billion
- Sweden: $12.3 billion
- Italy: $11.4 billion
- Poland: $9.6 billion
- Switzerland: $9.6 billion
- Denmark: $8.8 billion
Among Germany’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, German surpluses with Denmark (up 23.3%), Spain (up 8.5%) and Italy (up 5.8%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Germany’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Germany to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
German Companies Servicing Trading Partners
Over fifty 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)
According to IMPORTERS.com listings for German suppliers, the following are also examples of companies that ship products from Germany to its trading partners around the globe. Shown within parenthesis are products that the German business provides.
- 7Trade (mobile phones)
- Euro Car Export Ltd (vehicles)
- Flaskamp GmbH (liquid soap, washing powder)
- IMarketing Skirde Ltd (sports bags, garments)
- Kareva Marketing GmbH (calcium chloride, other drilling chemicals)
- Kgz Ersatzteile (diesel fuel lift pumps)
- Merbstrade (crude oil)
- Origiparts GmbH & Co. KG (engines, electrical parts)
- Tieig Industrial Group (industrial adhesives)
- Weser Apotheke (pharmaceuticals)
See also Germany’s Top 10 Imports, Germany’s Top 10 Exports, Top German Trade Balances and Germany’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 24, 2019
IMPORTERS.com The Online Market for G20 Importers, Germany Import Export Directory. Accessed on February 24, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on August 15, 2019
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on February 24, 2019
The World Factbook, Field Listing: Imports – Commodities, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 24, 2019